Feeding Hunger, Feeding Souls

Feeding Hunger, Feeding Souls

by the Rev. Cindy Long, Associate for Pastoral Care and Deacon, St. Michael's, Carmichael; St. Matthew's Community Resource Center, Sacramento

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Sacramento has long been a church that reached out to people in need. It began as one of the largest churches in the diocese with a mission to bring the Word of God to families. An annual report from 1954 states there were 800 Sunday School students enrolled! In the early 1970’s, when the largely middle class neighborhood began to shift to being a place where many immigrants and other people with low incomes could find a home, the people of the church responded with new outreach ministries. Beginning back then, with the Food and Clothes Closets that served people of the immediate area, St. Matthew’s Community Resource Center has expanded our original outreach services over the years to include people of the six surrounding zip codes. We added a free triage clinic in 2008 and have tenants, including a preschool and Birth and Beyond Family Resource Center, which support our mission of being a safe and welcoming place where people can get the help they need in their lives. All outreach ministries are staffed by volunteers - new volunteers are always welcome.

Today’s community is transient, culturally diverse (the three main languages are Russian, Spanish and English with more people arriving every day from Middle Eastern countries), mostly low income and riddled with the challenges people face when unemployment, inadequate healthcare access, crime and drugs are all too often an everyday part of their lives. Today’s congregation is reflective of our community. St Matthew’s is striving to be the hands and heart of Jesus; to meet spiritual as well as emotional and physical needs of this beautiful, challenging, ever evolving group which very much includes the people who do not set foot in church, but come seeking God in so many other ways.

In 2013, St. Matthew’s was designated as a Mission Enterprise Zone by The Episcopal Church. This means we are developing ways to work in partnership with other churches and with the people of our neighborhoods in mission – sharing everyone’s ideas, resources and experiences as we serve people in need. One way this is happening is with monthly Community Dinners, which began in partnership with St Michael’s, Carmichael last October. Aimed at providing a place of welcome where relationships can be built, these dinners (so far) involve volunteers from St Matthew’s; St Michael’s, Carmichael; Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento and our neighborhood, who work together to plan, cook, serve and share the meal with guests from the community. As relationships and trust are growing, people’s hopes for the community are gradually being shared: well-lighted streets, a place for teens to meet, a time for families to gather on Sunday afternoons for fellowship, intentionally inviting worship services…etc. We are looking forward to continuing this journey and seeing what God has in mind.

Interested in volunteering or learning more? Please send us an email: stmatthewsepiscopal@gmail.com.

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