Jubilee Ministry celebrates 30 years

LEWISTOWN – The head of The Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, joined with Bishop Nathan Baxter, of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, clergy and laity at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, in Lewistown, to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Jubilee Ministry in the Episcopal Church. She met with the Jubilee officers in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and reviewed the varieties of ministries that have emerged. Schori affirmed the importance of their outreach ministries in very different kinds of communities. She also honored the Rt. Rev. Charlie McNutt, retired bishop of the diocese, and the Rev. Canon Peter Greenfield, who was priest at St. Mark’s when former Presiding Bishop John Allin recognized the parish as the first Jubilee Center.

“What started as a spark has grown into a flame that has spread across the church,” Jefferts Schori said.

St. Mark’s was the first parish in the Episcopal Church to receive designation as a Jubilee Ministry Center for Outreach, under the mandate of Resolution A080 of the Church’s General Convention. The convention established such centers as an effort to form a “joint discipleship in Christ with poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs and to build a just society,” concluding that this is “at the heart of the mission of the church.”

“Our Jubilee Centers serve communities as small as Renovo and as large as Lancaster and Harrisburg,” said Central Pennsylvania Bishop Nathan Baxter. “In every case, they ask how the people of God can serve this community.” Each Jubilee Center represents a unique response to the needs of their community.

“We see these centers as deep expressions of what Jesus proclaimed,” Jefferts Schori explained.

Such ministries foster ecumenical partnerships and invite creative leadership.

“Jubilee Ministry means getting out of ourselves and inviting new people into community with us,” she added. “The church has been revitalized because we focus on common mission and turn away from minor differences.”

Since the legislation that created Jubilee Ministry was adopted, more than 600 ministry centers have been identified. In the beginning, there were only eight affirmed by the church’s executive council in June, 1983: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Lewistown; The Episcopal Pastoral Center, Denver, Colo.; St.. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Saginaw, Mich.; Urban Ministries, Durham, N.C.;Cross Episcopal Church, Miami, Fla.; St. Louis Metropolitan Ministry, St. Louis, Mo.; Ministries of Middle Tennessee/Urban and Regional Ministry, Nashville, Tenn.; Mission Training Program, Washington, D.C. Of these eight, five remain in one form or another, and they’re continuing to do the work of Jubilee.

The development of Jubilee Ministry as the guiding concept of mission at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was the direct result of two significant circumstances. Hurricane Agnes, in 1972, brought massive flooding and destruction. As a consequence of the flooding, one major industry shut down its operation altogether and another was forced to dramatically reduce its work force. Many people in the area became unemployed and others had lost everything.

Under the leadership of the Rev. Canon Peter Greenfield, the parish launched a series of programs to help those in the community who were struggling. A community garden provided folks with fresh produce. Meals on Wheels set up operation in St. Mark’s kitchen. Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, a community food bank, opened in the undercroft of the church. The parish initiated community work-weeks to provide labor, materials and assistance with home repairs and painting for those who could not do the work themselves.

Ecumenical relationships and partnerships were formed with other denominations to provide political, social and spiritual advocacy for individuals and organizations needing sponsorship. All of this led Bishop McNutt to urge that St. Mark’s apply for recognition as a Jubilee Center. In 1983, Presiding Bishop Rt. Rev. John Allin came to St. Mark’s to present the certificate personally.

Today, the concept of Jubilee, as understood from the prophet Isaiah and the gospel of Luke, still provides the guiding principle for ministry at St. Mark’s. In fact, the parish received Diocesan Congregational Development Operating Grants totaling $30,000 in 2012-2013 to help reclaim and strengthen its identity as a center for Jubilee Ministry in light of its own changing circumstances.

St. Mark’s Jubilee Ministry Center continues to forge partnerships with local agencies and other churches. Many of the volunteers that staff the various programs come not only from St. Mark’s but also from local congregations. Financial and in-kind support comes from religious groups throughout the area on a regular basis. The Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark’s thereby provides a kind of “hub” where many individual efforts intersect to create a genuine sense of the Lord’s Year of Jubilee as it “proclaims a year of favor from the Lord.”

Two of its long-standing efforts continue on: Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, a food bank that provides food to individuals and families regardless of race, creed or status, and Parishioners’ Outreach, which provides emergency assistance for heat, electricity and the like to families in need.

Several years ago, the ministry center began a monthly community meal, the Breaking Bread Together Dinner. Each month, over 100 people are served a balanced and nutritious meal that provides not only nutrition but also much needed fellowship.

More recently, the Jubilee Ministry Center at St. Mark’s established an Environmental Stewardship Committee to provide guidance and advocacy at the local level on issues pertaining to our physical environment, and an outreach to “Folks of A Seasoned Age,” which provides opportunities for personal and spiritual growth for individuals 55 years and older. For the last two years, the parish has revived its community garden to provide seasonally fresh produce for Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

For more information on St. Mark’s Jubilee Ministries Center or any of its programs, visit the parish’s website at www.stmark-lewistown.org.