By Matt LaBarre, Contributing Writer
Grafton – “Putting faith into action” is not simply a positive ideal for Reverend Laura Goodwin and the congregation at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Grafton, but an important aspect of living their lives out in service to their neighbors in Grafton as well as communities throughout Worcester County. The church, located at 53 N. Main St. in North Grafton has a long history of service, which is what attracted Reverend Goodwin to the parish in 2007.
“Our congregation has so much life and vitality, and has been willing to take a hard look at ourselves to evaluate what we’ve been doing and explore ways to better serve Grafton and our greater community,” Goodwin said. “The members of this church also have a real gift for hospitality and welcome, and we’re always reaching out to make new friends.”
Combining work, service, and worship together in a variety of activities and partnerships reflects Goodwin’s, and her congregation’s, faith and determination to live the life God is calling them to live.
“We look for places and opportunities where, from our perspective, God is already at work, and we develop partnerships that maximize all our efforts,” Goodwin noted.
An important ongoing partnership has developed with the Community Harvest Project (CHP), which is focused on a mission to “build an engaged and healthier community by bringing volunteers together to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for hunger relief.”
According to the organization’s website, over 99,000 people in Worcester County utilize hunger relief services through local food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.
Last year, the Community Harvest Project – through the efforts of volunteers planting, caring for, and harvesting – donated about 268,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables, roughly 1.1 million servings, to hunger relief agencies in Worcester County.
Goodwin became familiar with the work accomplished through the Community Harvest Project in 2010.
“I realized that the Community Harvest Project is all about hunger relief, and Jesus was all about feeding the hungry,” she said.
From that point on, Reverend Goodwin and many members of Saint Andrews became involved with CHP.
The church was already partnering with the Grafton Food Pantry, and developing a working relationship with the Community Harvest Project, as well as the food pantry, has been most meaningful to the church as a whole.
“There are people here in Grafton as well as most every other community who are struggling, and becoming involved with the Food Pantry as well as CHP taught us all about food insecurity, and how our efforts could truly make a difference,” Goodwin said. “Partnering with these organizations has been a powerful expression of living out our faith.”
Goodwin has been serving on the CHP Board of Directors for the past three years.
Members of St. Andrew’s congregation exhibit that same kind of faith commitment through several other partnerships as well.
“We’ve become very involved with the all-volunteer Nelson Library in North Grafton, organizing free activities for children and adults throughout the year, particularly around holiday themes,” Goodwin explained. “This activity has been a fabulous way to meet and assist our neighbors, while having fun at the same time.”
The church has also committed to the Worcester Fellowship, a street ministry located at the Worcester Common.
One Sunday per month, Goodwin conducts a 1 p.m. service at the Worcester Common, and a number of Saint Andrew’s members prepare a lunch for anyone who attends.
“The common really is church in the truest sense, and the fellowship has developed a core community who attend the services every week as well as the lunch socials,” she said. “Many of these people would never feel comfortable walking through our doors because they would be afraid what’s on the other side of those doors.”
Being active participants in the Worcester fellowship has opened up the eyes of Saint Andrew’s members, as well as members of the other participating congregations in the fellowship, to addiction issues, as well as the prevalence of homelessness.
For more information about St. Andrew’s, visit www.standrewsgrafton.org.