Becoming Beloved Community Grant Spotlight: St. Nicholas Richfield, Minnesota
By Megan Palmer
As the pandemic continues to cloak the world at large, the community of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Richfield, Minnesota, continues to hold each other up in love, compassion, and mutual aid. We are building on our mission to become a community center through redistributing resources, coordinating social services, and creating a network of connections with other faith communities, nonprofits, and government agencies. By going beyond how a typical worship space might operate, St. Nicholas is truly Building Beloved Community and helping to meet the needs of our most vulnerable congregants.
In the fall of 2021, several St. Nicholas initiatives were launched or furthered to help combat these vulnerabilities. Our youth in particular have taken a hit during the pandemic as opportunities for socialization dried up and countless changes were made in their academic journeys, including applying to and attending college. Several young people at St. Nicholas are in this position, and they are often the first in their families to attend college.
To combat the uncertainty and isolation of this process, we established an informal college mentorship program. Within it, students are matched with members from other churches, so that these mentors can share their expertise, and students can have a reliable person to bring their questions to. From putting together applications to simply chatting about life at college, no conversation or connection has been too small.
We are also continuing to bring key social services to St. Nicholas so that families can get what they need from the community they recognize and trust. Our greatest development is the partnership we have established with VEAP, a food redistribution nonprofit in Bloomington. Where before we were consistently soliciting food donations from the greater community to help feed our congregants, we are now a drop site for VEAP, which means that on a biweekly basis, we have around 600 pounds of fresh produce, grains, and meat delivered right to our church for our families to take home. We are in the process of launching a marketing campaign with VEAP, in hopes of getting food into the hands of more people who need it.
As for the future, much is being prepared. St. Nicholas is setting up a scholarship for post-secondary students within the church, which will be another source of encouragement and support for our youth. We have more health clinics planned to help get our congregation vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, a redesign of our church website, and more ways for our families and youth to stay connected even in the midst of this pandemic.
The St. Nicholas community is resilient and kind, and it is because of that strength and generosity that they deserve to rest and be cared for. They deserve unwavering, courageous support as they exist within and navigate places and systems that are often hazardous to them. We are building a truly beloved community.
If you are at all interested in hearing more about these initiatives or ways to help St. Nicholas, please reach out to Circle of the Beloved fellow Megan Palmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan Palmer is a 2021-2022 Circle of the Beloved Fellow with the Episcopal Service Corps. During her placement at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, she is focusing on community engagement efforts and family assistance coordination.