Many years ago, Rushsylvania United Methodist Church in the Capital Area North District created “Blessing Bags” as part of a youth project. Volunteers filled bags with various items and delivered them to shut-ins on a Sunday in Advent. Over the years, the number of bags increased.
Inspired by the ministry, the congregation and lead pastor, the Rev. Jessica Cavinee, decided to use the ministry to connect with the community.
In 2020 Gov. Mike DeWine issued the stay-at-home order for Ohio and Rushsylvania members asked, “What can we do?” A team gathered items and assembled bags with such items as note cards, stamps, water, tissues and a handwritten note to deliver to the shut-ins. Next, bags were delivered to widows on Valentine’s Day. “The response was overwhelming with gratitude,” Cavinee said. “We were sharing a spot of God’s sunshine with people.”
During this time, bags were also assembled and delivered to college freshman and elementary-through-high-school students. They contained school supplies required to learn from home.
Since Blessing Bags was a familiar ministry in the church, it was easy for people to become engaged. The excitement grew and inspired other ways to use the bags in ministry.
First, the team met with the local fire department and discovered immediate needs. Fire survivors often need pads of paper, pens, hand sanitizer and bottled water. The team assembled bags with the suggested items and delivered bags to the station. Now the bags are on hand when firefighters respond to emergencies. They also partnered with the fire department to distribute smoke alarms.
Next, the team attended a Rushsylvania Town Council meeting. “We wanted to introduce ourselves, let them to know we were in the community and wanted to help where needed,” Cavinee said.
The ministry has created excitement about the possibilities for future Blessing Bag projects. Rushsylvania UMC hopes to solidify a relationship with Benjamin Logan School District counselors to create a way to engage with the schools.
In December, around 100 Christmas Blessing Bags were created to distribute in the community. Volunteers gathered to assemble the bags and divided into teams of six to eight people to deliver to the residents, spreading love and cheer of the season.
This ministry has inspired other area churches, including Zanesfield UMC, where Cavinee is also lead pastor. This ministry continues to be supported by donations, community partnerships and church funds. Rushsylvania recently applied for a grant from United Methodist Community Ministries to help support the expanding efforts.
The possibilities to share Christ’s love through the ministry are endless as Rushsylvania continues to respond to needs in the community.
West Ohio Annual Conference website
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.