“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa
I love this reminder of the unspeakable importance of small kindnesses – a smile, a hug, or an encouraging word. But what does that sort of love look like in a pandemic, when we so rarely see each other in the first place? For ignYte, the shared youth ministry of St. Laurence Anglican and Good Shepherd Lutheran in Coquitlam, BC, it looked like decorating paper bags.
Through a growing partnership with another local Anglican church, St. Stephen’s, we learned about the Wednesday Lunch Club. The Club is a food ministry supporting people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. In ordinary times, people would gather twice a month for a meal and community at St. Stephen’s, but the pandemic made that impossible. As they attempted to continue supporting the Lunch Club community, its organizers planned to distribute Christmas gift bags full of foodstuffs and other items.
And that’s where ignYte came in. One of the Lunch Club organizers, Esther Hizsa, had recently joined our youth discernment group, a small team of adults who help listen and provide support to what’s happening in the youth ministry. She suggested that our youth could decorate these gift bags as one way of living our vision to help youth “share God’s love in every part of their lives”. My co-leader Rachel Genge and I loved the idea!
We wanted to gather in person, but then, in November, our restrictions tightened up. We had to change plans…again. We distributed the bags from St. Laurence one Saturday afternoon, then invited the youth to join us for an online makers’ party the following evening, where we would decorate the bags together. The evening itself was delightful. We drew and designed while chatting about classes and solving riddles with elaborately renamed Christmas songs. We talked about the challenges of the year. For all that had threatened to pull us apart, here we were – an unlikely community of youth and adults brought together by a shared faith, simply enjoying each other and this opportunity to do a small thing with great love.
Once Esther collected the bags, they were filled to the brim with other physical expressions of love, including socks, gloves, toques, razor, chocolate, toiletries, gift cards, home-baked cookies, and Christmas cards. As she and other Lunch Club volunteers dropped off the bags, they shared moments of celebration and sadness with people in the Lunch Club community, and a number of folks were touched and thrilled by the care and creativity the youth had shown. One person even said she would cut out the bag artwork and put it on her fridge!
Jason Wood is the Youth and Families Ministry Coordinator at St. Laurence in Coquitlam, and a new father!
The Covid Chronicles are stories shared from around the diocese of what ministry in and with families is like in this strange season. Read the others here. We know it’s not all roses but it’s not all thorns either. The small steps we are taking to connect with each other, the experiments in online worship and formation, the space we make to feel all the feelings – that’s what we want to share. We’ve all been on a steep learning curve – at times exhilarating and at times exhausting. Where have we met God in the midst of it?