A little church with a big heart that serves all: St. Martin’s, Shady Cove

A little church with a big heart that serves all: St. Martin’s, Shady Cove

This blog was written and contributed by The Rev. Laura Sheridan-Campbell, Vicar of St. Martin’s in Shady Cove.

When the global pandemic hit in March 2020, St. Martin’s Shady Cove had been offering a monthly, indoor, no-barrier food pantry to the community for over ten years. Through this outreach ministry, we were known as the little church with a big heart that serves all. Then when a global pandemic emerged, we were forced to adapt to a drive-thru model. 

Bill and MaryEllen Mower

Coordinators Bill and MaryEllen Mower led our stalwart volunteers to set up canopies and tables, sort food indoors and carry it outdoors, and give it all away. As families and individuals lost jobs and faced hardship, they came in droves. More volunteers came to help. So we offered two pantries a month. Then last Fall, two wildfires displaced over 5,000 persons in the Rogue River Valley. More community partners came to the fore. St. Martin’s responded by holding five food pantries in September, and three every month after that. 

In 2020, the Diocesan Commission on Poverty and Homelessness awarded St. Martin’s a grant. It came at a critical time. Not only did this generous gift help us to feed more hungry neighbors with more healthy food. It was a vote of confidence when we needed it that furthered the mission of the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon in Shady Cove. We are so thankful.

As do many of our churches, St. Martin’s faces the threat of wildfires again, and unprecedented cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the Delta variant. The needs are greater than ever. Like Jesus multiplied a few loaves and fish to feed thousands, God takes the grant we received, and other generous gifts, and showed us how much more we can offer a hurting world in Jesus’ Name. 

Amidst multiple challenges, in a deeply polarized world, there’s a little stretch in Shady Cove where the good news is being proclaimed in humility with every loaf of bread and box of fruit given and received. With deep gratitude, St. Martin’s looks forward to supporting the Diocesan Commission on Poverty and Homelessness in their “Baskets of Plenty” Virtual Auction in October. We hope you will, too.

Baskets of Plenty Virtual Auction – October 9, 2021

Join the Commission on Poverty and Homelessness for their upcoming online silent auction, beginning October 2, and their online live auction on October 6. You can sign-up to participate by visiting: https://cphfundraiser.schoolauction.net/auction2021/. Download the flyer here and share it with your congregation and community.

Congregation Close-up: St. Martin’s, Shady Cove

Nestled on the banks of the Rogue River in northern Jackson County, Shady Cove is a city of almost 3,000 people. St. Martin’s Episcopal Church has many close ties within the community, including counting amongst its members the mayor, a city planner, and volunteers with Friends of the Library. They also cheerfully participate in community activities such as the city’s annual Chili Cookoff despite being “robbed” of victory every year by the Fire Department.

Once dependent upon the timber industry, the local economy has suffered in recent decades. The Rev. Deacon Allan Miles recounts that church members devote many hours, day and night, to reach out in various way to people who need help. In this independent area, there is a high value on neighbors supporting neighbors without relying on government help, and the people of St. Martin’s believe it is their calling as Christians to take care of people regardless of their affiliation with the church.

One growing ministry of St. Martin’s is their Laundry Love program. About a year ago, volunteers started going to a local laundromat once a month to provide soap, dryer sheets, and coins to run the machines. Now they go twice a month, and share the observation that while there are some homeless people who come, the majority of Laundry Love participants are people who work but just don’t earn enough to cover all their expenses.

It is similar at the monthly food pantry, where St. Martin’s offers food for humans and pets alike. In the summertime, fresh local gardens provide fresh produce, while a woman with a soft spot for animals gives a substantial financial gift every month to buy animal food. This addresses an important need of many elder people, for whom a dog or cat is a precious source of company and comfort.

The environment of Shady Cove also influences church activities. In the summer, they hold picnics on the riverfront properties of church members to foster a sense of fun and community. The Rogue River also played an important role in the church’s Easter weekend services. On Good Friday, members walked through town from the church down to the river, taking turns carrying a wooden cross and stopping to observe the Stations of the Cross along the way. Then on Easter Sunday, they used water from the river for a baptism.

In June, priest Tom Buechele will be retiring, but the friendly, tight-knit community of St. Martin’s will continue caring for each other and their neighbors with love, laughter, and dedication.

Visit the St. Martin’s website.