The Rev. Bonnie Matthews, Deacon: Lent Discipline and Service

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The Rev. Bonnie Matthews, Deacon

Lenten Discipline in NC Region collecting hygiene items for Capital Community College.

In response to the Province one call for Deacon Sunday in June the Reverend Bonnie Matthews, Deacon at Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford, CT preached this sermon this past Sunday. I share it with all of you as I think it is a beautiful representation of the power of the diaconate, and an opportunity to learn more about this amazing ministry. Bishop Laura J. Ahrens.

Food Ministry and food security are two passions in my life as a deacon. Serving Christ Church Cathedral, making connections in the neighborhood and bringing concerns back to the church, I have had the opportunity to build relationship with Capital Community College.  

In the fall of 2019, Dean Lina Howell, Lay Leader Nancy Jacobs and I visited Capital Community College to learn more about their food pantry and what was needed to support the pantry; volunteers and or food items. At the time we focused more on how we could support the food bank with workers to train and commit to hours each week at the pantry. And then COVID shut down in-person gatherings. COVID also highlighted the injustice related to food security, and the needs of our neighbors.  

In the fall of 2019 conversation related to Capital Community College Food Pantry focused more on how we could assist in providing food for the pantry. Always looking for innovative solutions, I proposed to the congregations committee the potential to provide food for the pantry with a Reverse Advent Calendar in which congregation members could purchase a food item needed by the pantry for each day of Advent. The purchase of food items, and the ingathering of food items could happen even though we were not gathering in-person for Sunday services. 

Once again I was in communication with Capital Community College to learn about specific items needed for the pantry. The mission to provide food was successful during a time of need. In educating myself about the realities of food insecurity, the percentage of college students using the food pantry and the understanding that SNAP does not allow vouchers to be used for personal hygiene products I went back to the college asking if hygiene products would be useful to the Capital Cares Food Pantry and what items might be needed most. The answer was a resounding yes! I began to wonder if Christ Church congregants could be so successful in meeting the needs of the food pantry, what might happen if we invited the North Central Region of ECCT to participate in a Lenten Discipline, collecting hygiene products for the pantry. 

Because this effort was so successful, Christ Church Cathedral continues to gather food during Advent, as well as, inviting the NC Region to the Lenten Discipline of collecting hygiene products each year for the past three years. In the words of Randall Ward, Director of Student Activities at Capital Community College, “Capital Cares Food Pantry is overwhelmed by the generosity of food and hygiene product donations. Because the need and cost of food items has increased, FoodShare is not able to meet all of our needs. You are helping a population that is very much in need, as they seek to further educate themselves.”  

What I have learned through this mission is: build relationships, educate yourself, ask questions to learn how you can be of assistance and partner with those in need to identify their needs, and partner with other communities to meet the needs.