St. John’s United Methodist Church (UMC), located at 5150 Snyder Lane in Rohnert Park, is another example of a community church or organization taking action to help others in our city. On Friday, January 1, the congregation held a drive through pick-up/donation event in the church’s parking lot. The purpose of the event was for church members to pick-up communion materials to be used during online worship services on the first Sunday of the New Year. Just as important, church members brought generous donations to be used to create care packages for the homeless in our community.
Full disclosure, St. John’s is where I worship. I was introduced to them by a good friend last December. I’m not especially religious and initially attended to support my friend who had recently lost their spouse. But I was impressed by the inclusion and welcome they offered, so I kept coming back to Sunday services, pre-Covid at the church and online via Zoom since March. Along the way, I’ve started to learn more about them and their church. The congregation is small, generally elderly, but active in their faith and our community.
According to the United Methodist website they “believe in the primacy of grace (God’s unmerited love), human dignity, conversion, faith and good works and tolerance.” For them “social consciousness has always gone hand in hand with faith.” My first glimpse of the church putting those words into action came earlier this year. My story of January 24 titled “Separating with Reconciliation and Grace” dealt with the struggle within the UMC over the issues of inclusion. That included acceptance of same sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. Over the last year, I’ve watched as this small congregation continued to practice what they preach.
The church and its members regularly partner with Neighbors Organized Against Hunger (NOAH) and Committee on the Shelterless (COTS). I remember one in person service before shelter in place where the hats and scarves the members knitted for the homeless were displayed before delivery. In November, they held another drive through an event like this one. At that one, Advent Candles for use in services online were picked up and donations of food and cash were collected for NOAH. And members often volunteer at both NOAH and COTS. According to Becky McMenomy, a lay leader of the church, there is always something being done especially during the holidays. It might be a toy collection for needy children, a special offering at services for financial donations to local organizations, or like this event.
At today’s event, Pastor Betty Pagett presided over passing out the communion materials while a handful of church volunteers collected the donations brought by members of the church. These donations will be used to create “Care Packages” for the homeless. Socks, wash cloths, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lip balm, hand sanitizer and protein bars are examples of the content to be included. Once assembled, they’ll be delivered to an organization serving the homeless for delivery.
Although, different this year due to the pandemic, the tradition of giving continues. Whether it’s my church or other churches; groups like Unsheltered Friends, NOAH and COTS; organizations like the Rotary or Chamber of Commerce; individual businesses, our schools, or city services; I think you’ll agree that we can be proud of what they do. The need is great. There is no silver bullet to solving them overnight. So, as we enter the New Year, please say thank you to each group trying to make a difference in Rohnert Park.