You may have seen an article in the Religious News Service (https://religionnews.com/2019/06/27/on-madison-avenue-an-episcopal-priest-blesses-passersby/) about the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser, associate rector of the Church of the Incarnation in Manhattan, NY. She stands outside the doors of the church in her vestments every Tuesday morning for a half an hour with a sign that says “Ask me for a blessing. God’s grace is meant to be shared”.
The people passing by are mostly in a hurry to get on with their days, but a few greet Dannhauser and some ask her for a blessing. These are not generally the people who attend Incarnation. Many of them probably do not attend any church. She says in her blog (https://www.askmeforablessing.com/) :
“It's a surprisingly intimate experience. Coming before God with a complete stranger, united by a shared and often fervent desire for the Holy Spirit to move in that person's life. There is no pretense on either side. No need to impress. Prayer cuts through all our superficiality, right down to the heart of getting real about our need for God. This is where grace abounds. Grace from God that is meant to be shared by those who gather in God's name.”
Not every congregation has a busy street right in front of the church, so this particular version of a blessing ministry isn’t tailored to a rural congregation or even to the average suburban congregation. The concept, however, of being present in a community in a public setting offering a blessing, sharing God’s grace, can be adapted. We aren’t called, after all, to fill our church pews, but we have been sent out to share the Good News with everyone.
There are many examples of ministry in action throughout Province II. An example is Laundry Love, a special ministry of St John’s in Somerville, NJ (Diocese of New Jersey). Through Laundry Love, parishioners assist neighbors in need who are unable, or cannot afford, to wash and clean their clothes.
Once a month, St John’s volunteers station themselves at a laundromat and provide a needed service to many in the community through Laundry Love. The volunteers help clients prepare their laundry for the washing machine, feed the quarters into the machine, and repeat with the dryers.
Flyers announcing Laundry Love are posted in the area shelters, social service agencies, the food bank, and the local luncheon program (housed at St John’s). There
are no questions asked – just a willingness on the part of St John’s to help the young and old, families and couples, children and seniors who arrive at the laundromat. The numbers of those being assisted have gradually risen over the months, a tribute to the effectiveness of this ministry, and a sad commentary on the needs of society. Laundry Love is a community effort: members of St John’s donate quarters, clothes soap pods and dryer sheets: volunteers from the church are on hand to coordinate and assist the clients. And, Laundry Love could not happen if not for the generosity and cooperation of a local laundromat.
Laundry Love is a ministry that first developed in California. Over the years, pockets of Laundry Love have emerged across the Episcopal Church. At St John’s, Laundry Love has become a mainstay of ministry in the community.
For more information contact St John’s, 908-722-1250.
Neva Rae Fox, St. John’s, Somerville