By Louise Fortuna, part of the Vestry Papers issue on Buildings & Grounds [& Mission] (July 2016)
St. Mary’s has many of the ministries you’d expect to find in a church: collecting food for people who are hungry, Sunday School programs, an altar guild, Episcopal Church Women, and more. There’s also a ministry that surprises many visitors: our ministry of space.
At St. Mary’s we USE our space, every inch of it. Our building is larger than some, but smaller than many. Meetings often happen in Sunday school classrooms. In an average month, there are 110 parish events and 125 community events in our building. On any given day, one might find a group in our building at any hour of the day or night! In addition to ten weekly worship services, parishioners gather in our building to minister to each other and to the community. Quilting and knitting groups, bible studies, family fun nights, and a twice-a-month free breakfast for our hungry neighbors are just a small sample of the parish ministries that happen on a regular basis.
Hunger and homelessness are two primary areas of community outreach. In the winter, we’re part of a local warming center program, opening our doors to provide a place for people who are homeless to sleep when night temperatures dip below freezing. Another big piece of this ministry of space is making our building available to the wider Eugene/Springfield community. Our doors open for 12-step meetings, children’s music classes, community yoga, meeting space for local nonprofits, and a range of other uses.