United Methodist Church’s NOW committee helps meet the needs of Islanders.
(From the MV Times 12/27/18 Edition, Written by Connie Berry)
After talking with the women in the NOW committee at the United Methodist Church, I’m wondering what I could
possibly be doing with my free time. NOW is an acronym for Nurture Outreach and Witness, and co-chairs
Sandy Joyce and Donna Leon, along with the organizer of the group, Barbara Spain, keep busy year-round.
I sat down with the women and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Roberta Williams, a couple of weeks ago. When I asked what kinds of things they work on throughout the year, I quickly found out it was more than I bargained for.
The committee’s been together for about 10 years, they told me, and began under the previous pastor, Richard Rego.
“When people in the church had an idea for a ministry, they could come to this committee and we would help
them realize their idea,” Sandy explained. “The NOW committee is like the heart of the church,” Donna added.
There are the outreach programs most Islanders are familiar with — the Island Food Pantry and Clothes to Go, both
housed in the United Methodists’ old stone church in Vineyard Haven. There are two Community Suppers — one hosted
at the parish hall at the Campground on Saturday nights, and the other one at St. Andrew’s Church in Edgartown
(it used to be at the Old Whaling Church) on Monday nights; both begin at 5:30 pm. The suppers start up the first
Saturday and the first Monday in January, and continue until the last week of March.
“I think all of us that volunteer for the suppers, we get as much from it as the people who come,” Donna said.
The UMC has often talked to local restaurants and chefs, who have volunteered to prepare meals for their suppers.
The parish hall has a large commercial kitchen. The meals are served on dishes at the church, not paper
or plastic plates. In summer they sell food for the masses that come to Illumination Night.
“I’d guesstimate that we get about 10,000 people,” Pastor Williams said. “We start at about 5 pm, and a lot of families come. We try to make this building available to the community. It’s air-conditioned, and we make it available to other nonprofits. Last summer we had about six events sponsored by AA, the Cottagers, Jazz on the Vineyard, a group that helped build a conversation around race.” The Boy Scouts also use the building, and they sell popcorn during Illumination Night.
The NOW committee is busy with Little Dresses for Africa, a ministry where they sew simple dresses that can be let out
and little britches with a drawstring waist for boys. The clothing is then shipped off to the Michigan headquarters
of the Christian nonprofit, Little Dresses for Africa, and they distribute the clothing throughout the continent of Africa.
This time of year the NOW committee collects hats, scarves, and mittens knitted and crocheted by volunteers,
and they decorate a Christmas tree inside the church with the handmade goods, which eventually make their way to
the Red Stocking Fund. The committee also began making prayer shawls a year ago.
“We make them and give them to parishioners who maybe have had a loss or need a little coziness in their lives"
Sandy said. “It lets them know that we’re thinking of them,” Donna added. They also are part of a backpack project
that benefits the elementary and high schools on the Island. Barbara explained that the Campground flea
market in summer and the holiday bazaar held recently help to fund their outreach programs.
The committee gets together once a month regularly, though they admit it’s harder to do in the summer months.
They brainstorm what to do, and have gotten parishioners together to craft ornaments, jewelry, candles, wreaths, cards,
and swags to sell. And this year on Mother’s Day, they asked people to bring in donations of diapers and wipes,
which were given to the Department of Children and Families. On Father’s Day, people donate children’s books
that remind them of their dad or a dad figure in their lives, and those are given to the Red Stocking Fund.
The church has another committee that serves receptions after funerals, they donate blankets to Church World Service,
and they go caroling at Windemere at Christmastime. The parish hall serves as a gathering place for AA groups,
who held a Thanksgiving dinner there, and a New Year’s Eve party and dance.
“We want people to know that the church is here for them,” Pastor Williams said.
I think I realize that now, more than ever. If you’d like to find out more about the United Methodist Church
of Martha’s Vineyard, reach out to them at 508-693-4424.