Pawtucket Congregational Church in Lowell is better known for selling pumpkins from the church's front lawn each October, than for Valentine’s Day treats. However, this small church has a big heart; and this past February they shared God’s message of love, hoping it would help the recipients all year long.
The church solicited donations of travel size toiletries, winter items including socks, gloves and hand warmers – as well as cash to buy some needed items – and filled 92 Blessing Bags that were given out on Valentine’s Day to people at the Lowell Transitional Living Center (LTLC). Included in the bags were messages letting the recipients (who are experiencing homelessness) know that they are loved by all those who contributed to the Blessing Bag Ministry, and that they are loved by God.
Ariah Murphy, Volunteer Coordinator for LTLC explained that on Valentine’s Day morning, she and LTLC manager Crystal went through all of the dorms and placed a Blessing Bag on each client’s bed. The dorms were empty, as clients are required to be out of the building by a certain time each morning. However, when each bed had a blessing bag, Murphy returned the remaining ones to the front desk. She explained to those who were working what the bags were, and asked them to please give them to clients who come in for the Winter Emergency Bed program. As she was explaining, a resident overheard and his face lit up and he said, “At least somebody loves me today.”
A few days later, Murphy spent some time in the common area and spoke with the people at the front desk again and asked how the blessings were received. She said the clients she gave them to were surprised and excited to receive something on Valentine’s Day -- a holiday typically overlooked. One client remarked: “It really made me happy to know that people think of us.”
This ministry project was spearheaded by the church’s new pastor, The Rev. Nancy Butcher. During her interview, Butcher indicated that she was passionate about getting the congregation involved in spreading God's love in Lowell and beyond. “She shared her experience with a Valentine's project during an interview as an example of outreach she would like to do, and she brought it to life.” said Jamie Butterweck, a member of the church.
“The staff at the Massachusetts Conference and especially our Associate Conference Minister, The Rev. Wendy Vander Hart, provided great support and guidance throughout our Pastor Search process,” said Kim Nichols, a member of Pawtucket’s search committee. “They helped to ensure that we had a wonderful group of candidates to learn about and to meet with.”
“This project is so simple to duplicate,” said Butcher. “No technology is involved nor are there significant upfront costs to invest. A Blessing Bag ministry can be done for any occasion or for any group of people on the margins that a church feels called to lift up. I'd love to see it copied and repeated over and over again by other churches. God's love NEVER gets old and people never get tired of knowing they are special to God and other people.”
You can reach Rev. Nancy Butcher at the church office at 978 452 2144 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.