We at St. James’s seek to share the Good News of Jesus and to serve others within our parish, in our local community, and, through our missions program, the larger community and “all nations.” The Mission Fund was established to support dedicated people and organizations who, in the name of Christ, work in such areas as theological education, community development, housing, medical care, hunger issues, etc. The Fund is allocated a fixed percentage of total parish pledge income each year. The Mission Committee has tried to choose ministries that reflect the concerns of all parishioners.
How Missions are Chosen
One of the functions of the St. James’s Missions Committee is to administer the Mission Fund. The Mission Fund is allocated a percentage (5.5%) of the parish’s total overall pledge income, or approximately $12,000-$13,000 per year. Each year the Missions Committee invites the parish to suggest ministries to support over the following funding cycle (missions are generally supported for a 3 year period.)
Each Fall the Mission Committee asks for suggestions from the parish as to ministries to fund the following year. We are looking for missions that:
- have an existing connection with our parishioners
- are smaller ministries where our contribution can make an appreciable difference
- allow us to maintain a balance between ministries with different emphases
- are explicitly Christian (or sometimes inter- faith) in motivation
The Vestry gives final approval to missions selections.
Missions Funded in 2016
B-SAFE program, Boston and environs (new) is a youth program of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the South End. B-SAFE (Bishop’s Summer Academic and Fun Enrichment) contributes to the health of underserved communities by helping school age young people along the path to successful adulthoods. We would be helping to sponsor a youth Counselor in Training. At 6 B-SAFE sites, teens lead activities, chaperone field trips, and make sure everyone is safe and having fun. The demand for jobs with BSAFE far exceeds their ability to hire teens. This year, they had 180 applicants for 105 positions, a number they are struggling to maintain in year two of Massachusetts’ minimum wage increase. The young people they work with are primarily Latino/a (72% of school year enrollees) and African American (22%). Many are recent immigrants who speak English as a second language. All are economically disadvantaged and the vast majority live in public housing. While some teens receive some funding through a City program, St. Stephen’s funds others directly, in part to hire teens who have turned 18, are court involved, and/or are not in school.
P. and A. in North Africa (new) will be working with a nonprofit international development organization that, in their own words, seeks a “transformed society of inclusion, empowerment and dignity for people with disabilities to live a full and active life”. This organization is unique in that it is able to operate as openly Christian in a nearly entirely Muslim country. They will be working with day centers that provide vocational and lifeskills, and their work will include curriculum development, teacher training, human rights and advocacy projects and campaigns, and seeking to help the organization expand the services they provide. Currently the only supports in place are for day habilitation services for people up to 30 years old and P&A would like to help them expand that age range, or provide a system of supports and training for families of people who age out of the system. They also plan to assist people with disabilities to find jobs by either establishing a micro-enterprise or by establishing internships among community businesses. As the political situation in the country remains unstable, their organization is planning to prepare families in case government funding for the day centers is cut off.
Nuevo Amanecer, East Boston, MA is a new church and an outgrowth of the Christian Base Communities project we supported last year. This new initiative of the Lutheran Church seeks to create a network of base communities among the largely Latino, immigrant community of East Boston that equips individuals to connect their Christian faith with their desire for a more just world and to empower them to transform their communities through love, service, and social change. In June, the new ministry hosted their first monthly spiritual support group with the leaders of justice organizations who are working to improve the lives of all people in East Boston. The congregation has also been instrumental in the formation of the East Boston Interfaith Council, a group of congregations that is working to secure more affordable housing in East Boston in order to stabilize the rapidly increasing rental rates and keep our families in the neighborhood. At this time, Nuevo Amanecer (New Dawn) has a small group of families that gathers every Saturday for children’s Bible classes and women’s fellowship. This community had its first leadership retreat on April 9 and 10, 2016 to launch a discernment process around the spiritual gifts of the women participating and how they will use those gifts to strengthen the Body of Christ and the wider community of East Boston. This effort is being led by Britta Meiers Carlson, a minister of the Lutheran Church and assisted by Reed Carlson, our associated priest.
The Crossing is an Episcopal worship and fellowship community meeting at the Cathedral of St. Paul in downtown Boston. A part of a movement sometimes called “Fresh Expressions” or the “Emergent Church” that seeks to experiment with new and old ways of “being church,” it models radical welcome and is dedicated to raising up leaders. The preaching, the prayers, and the planning of the worship are all done by groups of committed lay leaders. The underlying theology is that the wisdom lies not only with ordained leaders, but also with the community itself. The Crossing is itself a mission of the church, but is also committed to doing mission itself. The Crossing has developed a Rule of Life and also provides opportunities for growth and fellowship through its small group ministries. Several members of St. James’s are involved in the Crossing in a variety of roles.
Lay Ministers Education in Lesotho: Through the Diocese of Lesotho, funding would allow for training of Lay Education Ministers in mountain regions. Lesotho had 43 parishes, many with outstations in remote locations, and less than 30 full time priests. Without an adequate number of priests, the Diocese has relied heavily on Lay Ministers to run the church and lead congregations. Although enthusiastic, these Lay Ministers are not trained in theology, the basic work of leading worship on Sundays or preaching. Our contributions have allowed for 2 highly successful workshops , training about 20 lay ministers each, including facilitators, travel, food, and materials. Workshops include:
1. Leading Sunday Worship in the local congregations
2. Bible Appreciation and Interpretation
3. Pastoral Care – visiting the sick, the aged, the bereaved and widows
4. Church Administration – Church & Parish Council Roles
5. General Christian Leadership
TATUA (formerly Be the Change-Kenya) was started by St. James’s parishioner, Natalie Finstad, who is also an official missionary of the Episcopal Church. TATUA is unique in empowering young Kenyans and supporting local organizations to eradicate child poverty in Nairobi, while also raising up new leaders and strengthening community. Current and past youth-led initiatives have included:
- Running a campaign to mobilize parent involvement in their children’s education
- Launching a mentorship program and food drive at home.
- Partnering with a local counseling center to provide mentors with a free 6-month training program
- Starting an income-generating garden that grows kale and onions.
- Partnering with Equity Bank so that now anyone who volunteers at a BTCKE partner organization is eligible to attend a free financial training course.
- Recruiting college students to provide tutoring for free to children at home during summer break.
Ministries of Aides International, Inc. Haiti-- MAII currently assists 7,000 impoverished Haitian children and seeks to expand to help many more in need. They have constructed and operate orphanages, run a vocational school for the teens and adults in the city of Port-Margot, and operate kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Additionally they provide a wide range of material aid including food, shelter, medicine, clothing, school supplies, uniforms, toys, etc. MAII runs annual health fairs and is in the process of building a modest medical center in Port-Margot and a small pharmacy to help alleviate the burden of health care concerns in these communities. It is currently working on the “Build a School Build a Future” project, planning to build three schools in cities that currently have none. MAII has operated since 1981 and is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit affiliated with Grace Tabernacle Church of God.
Kenya Self-Help Project—Girls Empowerment: This comprehensive girls empowerment and AIDS prevention program is a model for strengthening self-esteem and elevating the social role of women. The program trains teachers and organizes school-based Girls Clubs. During weekly meetings, girls learn decision-making skills and receive accurate reproductive health and AIDS education. To reduce absences, girls receive Dignity Kits containing underwear and locally-made reusable sanitary napkins. The program also supports a training program in sustainable agriculture and builds gender-sensitive latrines for girls at partner schools. The purpose of this program is to raise girls' self-esteem by keeping them in school and giving them the tools for self-empowerment.
The Outdoor Church—Cambridge is a ministry to homeless men and women in the Harvard and Porter Square areas. The core of the mission is the outdoor prayer service held at 9:00 AM in Porter Square every Sunday, regardless of season or weather. Outdoor Church volunteers join people who are homeless and housed in ecumenical worship and pastoral care. There is also a Thursday service at Albany St. Shelter at 6:00 PM. Three days a week, lay and ordained ministers carry sandwiches, pastry, coffee, juice and socks around the squares, where communion and pastoral care is also offered. The Outdoor Church is also a partner in the Friday Café at First Church Congregational in Harvard Square, a space of hospitality, warmth, and community. Guests can come in, relax, enjoy conversation or quiet time by themselves, and partake of warm soup, fresh bread, and other foods donated by local businesses.
Partakers—Partakers is a prison education program committed to advancing restorative justice, rehabilitation, and the transformation of both prisoners and society. Its mission is to reduce recidivism through education and civic engagement. Its major program is College Behind Bars (CBB) that serves people in prison in five Massachusetts state prisons through education and mentoring while they are incarcerated. There are three major CBB programs to assist people in prison in pursuing a secondary education through the Boston University Prison Education Program (BUPEP), or to assist them with Distant Learning correspondence courses. The St. James’s prison ministry group, which has worked through Partakers for many years, meets monthly, writes to our “adopted” prisoner at MCI Framingham consistently, visits in pairs once a month, and attends trainings.
2016 Missions Committee Annual Report
During 2016, St. James’s parishioners continued involvement in a number of local ministries funded through the Missions Fund. Parishioners continue to make sandwiches for the Outdoor Church each month, while others are active in the St. James’ Prison Ministry, led by Tom Tufts. Eric Litman and other parishioners visited, prepared, and served lunch at one of the summer sites of B-SAFE (Bishop’s Summer Academic and Fun Enrichment), a ministry which we are newly funding this year. Recently, we have been working more closely with the Rev. Britta Meiers Carlson, pastor of Nuevo Amenecer, to learn more about the needs of the immigrant community and what might be our call and strategy to respond to dangers that immigrants are facing in the current political climate. We were pleased to have Britta come speak at a meeting of the Anti-Oppression team, along with new parishioner, Allen Perez.
In the Spring, we were blessed to have TATUA-Kenya co-founder and Executive Director, Kenneth Chomba visit and be our guest speaker, as he was in the US for the 2016 global missions summit hosted at St. Peter’s Episcopal church in Weston. Parishioner Mary Beth Mills-Curran, who had visited TATUA the previous year, was instrumental in assisting Kenneth with his 6 week visit as he met with churches around the country.
Also in the Spring, two parishioners, Yvette Verdieu and Sarah Borgatti, traveled to Puerto Rico to attend the Global Episcopal Mission Network conference. They joined hundreds of others under the theme “God’s Mission with a World in Continuous Motion”, hearing a keynote by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and participating in workshops and liturgy with mission-oriented people from around the world.
On a sad note, we were informed that the Good Shepherd School in Haiti, which we had supported for the past two years, had been forced to close, partially due to financial difficulty. The school had been founded by the Rev. Jean-Elie and Mona Millien, parents of former parishioner Didi Millien. We were saddened to learn of the subsequent death of Mona and pray for their family.
In addition to providing educational opportunities and supporting our missionaries in a variety of ways, the Missions Committee administers the Missions Fund. For over thirty years our parish has supported dedicated people and organizations who, in the name of Christ, work in such areas as theological education, community development, housing, medical care, and church planting. We believe that support for and involvement in missions is our response to God's grace and love for us. God calls us to care for the spiritual, physical, and social needs of others and to join in the restoration of all people to God's self.
The Mission Fund is allocated a percentage (5.5%) of the parish’s total overall pledge income. In 2016 we funded the following ministries:
- Nuevo Amenecer
- B-SAFE program
- P. & A., missionaries to North Africa
- Lay Ministers Education in Lesotho
- The Crossing
- The Outdoor Church
- Kenya Self-Help (Girls empowerment)
- Ministries of Aides International (Haiti)
- Partakers Prison Ministry
- Tatua-Kenya (founded by St. James missionary Natalie Finstad)
You can read much more about the missions we support on the missions page of the parish web page: http://www.stjames-cambridge.org/missions-committee/
Several of our missionaries also have their own blogs available from the St. James’s website. As always, we encourage parishioners who want to undertake missions activities to speak with us about support. We also welcome members who would like to serve on the Committee.
Nancy McArdle (chair)