The Outreach Committee aspires to bring leadership, continuity and discernment to the Outreach programs of Emmanuel Church. The focus of the committee is three-fold: serve locally (in Rhode Island), serve within the United States, and serve globally. Our main mission is to help people obtain the necessary items for living a fulfilled life while professing the love, knowledge, inclusion and sustainability that we have found in Jesus Christ. We strive to be an example of Christ’s life to the world.
From the self-guide tour, revised by Parish Historian Anne Sherman, June 2013: Emmanuel Church has long been a meeting place for numerous community organizations, some of which had their beginnings at Emmanuel, outgrew our facilities, and still continue to this day. They include outreach programs such as “Soup’s On.” With a goal simply to feed people, this blossomed into a cooperative ministry of 19 churches of 10 different denominations, working together to provide at least one meal every day of the month to an average of 100 people. A community meal is still offered at Emmanuel at 5 pm on the first Tuesday of every month.
Again and again, throughout the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, we are reminded that God created the heavens AND the earth. Chaired by Steve MacAusland, the members of The Environment Committee hold, therefore, that the Earth is sacred and is worthy of our love, respect, and protection. We gather together as a Committee of Emmanuel Church to share our stories, dreams, challenges, and successes of living in harmony with Creation. We seek to learn from and support each other in our efforts to do so. Our mission is to become more loving and faithful as individuals and to share our love with others in ever increasing circles to include our friends and families here at Emmanuel Church and beyond. Among those projects already making progress are: composting, recycling, energy efficiency lighting and replacement, and outreach to other churches in Newport.
Oakland Cemetery Revitalization Project
The Oakland Cemetery came to the attention of the Emmanuel Church Outreach Committee from Betty Perez. Betty had seen a newscast sharing a family’s disappointment of not being able to enjoy their loved ones resting place, without the burden of cleaning up the area. The cemetery was being used as a dumping ground. The owner stopped caring for the grounds, leaving it to the families. “I began to question humanity and asked myself how this could possibly be happening. From beginning to end this clean up at the Oakland Cemetery taught me that humanity, love and GOD are strong and well.” said Betty.
Betty decided to travel to Cranston to check out just how bad it was. She took a few pictures because “I knew once the members saw the pictures they would want to help me help the families.” The cemetery is set in the middle of the city surrounded by auto shops, stores, and a major footpath. The trash and brush were piled taller than any person. The dumpster was surrounded by so much trash that it seemed impossible for the trash truck to reach it. Most of the plots were buried in trash, dead brush and high grass.
How could we, people of faith, let this problem be ignored? “The values that my parents instilled in me made it impossible to ignore. This story tugged at my heartstrings and I knew what God was expecting us to do. He wanted us to love one another, embrace each other and answer the call to service,” said Betty. The outreach group agreed it was a concern and it needed to be addressed.
On Saturday June 4, 2016 members of the Emmanuel Church Outreach Committee met in Cranston at the Oakland Cemetery with bags, gloves, rakes and hearts in hand. We were ready and equipped to begin the huge endeavor of cleaning what Betty had seen as a job fit for many churches, not just the few of us that morning. Betty and Teresa Blair-Perez got there a bit early to survey the area and to pick a place to begin. They also met with the woman from the Historical Cemetery Association and while Teresa was talking with her, Betty was driving around the grounds. To both of their amazement, the cemetery was almost completely cleaned up. The news brought so much attention that a few groups had already come out to help clean.
There happened to be one area that was left untouched and Emmanuel Church was happy to adopt the three trees of trash. Unknown to us at the start, these dump sites were actually graves. The spot attacked by Sarah, Xander and Lisa was well over knee-high and spread over a square meter. While clearing through the pile and separating trash from leaves they found that much of what was in the pile was actually remains of past seasonal decorations (Christmas, Easter), stuffed animals, broken bottles most likely left by families when they were visiting their own loved ones. After several hours of separating trash and leaves they were able to uncover the grave that lay below. There were some lilies around the headstone, Cynthia took some time to care for them and insure that they would be able to grow properly. Also, while they were “weeding” through the pile of trash they had found a small bag of white pebbles that was too heavy to put in the trash bags. The pebbles were used to decorate the site of the poor family that had been treated with such disregard.
While they were cleaning the trash, Betty noticed a woman and her son trying to clean a plot. Well, what were we there for if not to help the families clean up their areas, right? She decided to abandon her pile for a few minutes to walk over and help the woman. “When I came upon the two, the woman was crying because she had lived in Libya and her son died here in the states and this was the first time she had been to the grave site. I felt so badly about the trash that they were cleaning that I held her for a few minutes and immediately insisted that we would take their trash and then shared some cold water with them.” Sarah had given some of the found pebbles to this family to decorate their loved one’s grave. “We did what GOD wanted us to do, we answered the call to embrace people culturally, emotionally and theologically with LOVE.” said Betty
The individuals that were there the morning of June 4th will always be in my heart and I thank GOD that he allowed me to share this special day with them.
We will be going back September 11, 2016 to clean our adopted areas.
The image on the left was taken about a quarter of the way through the cleaning of this site. The image on the right is the same site after the cleaning and decorating was completed.
The amount of bags of trash that were compiled
— Members of the Community Outreach Committee : Betty Perez, Teresa Blair-Perez, Lisa Blair, Sarah Atkins, Xander Wilkinson, and Cynthia Lafferty (not pictured)