Virtual Mission Camp

Virtual Mission Camp

These are not complex service actions, but they feel about right for where our congregation and our community are in the midst of the pandemic.

From Outreach to Mission

As the impacts of social distancing have taken root in our local community, our congregation has ramped up our engagement, moving from a simple act of generosity to a more informed approach that connects family-oriented actions with the causes of inequality in our community.

COVID Means Pivot

We had planned a mission-based day camp this summer, where our youth group would work with different agencies each day to get a sense of the variety of needs (and people helping to meet those needs) around our community.  We did something similar in 2019. COVID meant we would not be able to be together as an in-person service week safely, so we pivoted to virtual.

We partnered with local non-profit organizations and created activities that households could do at home. Each month starts with a Zoom kick-off to introduce the project and the non-profit. We then distribute materials for the project. We do a short wrap up at the end of each month.

Notecards to Nursing Homes

We started off easily in June, by sending out lists of addresses of parishioners who were in nursing homes or other institutions and hadn’t been able to have visitors. We asked participants to draw pictures or send cards. We also asked them to send extra drawings or cards for people whom the institutions thought were becoming isolated.  (We worked with each institution to work this out ahead of time.) We had a good response to that—people participated and asked for more addresses!

Blankets for Children

In July we worked with Project Linus, an organization that provides blankets for children in hospitals, foster care, rehab centers, and other circumstances where they may need a tangible reminder of love. While Project Linus is an international organization, a member of our congregation is heavily involved in one of the local chapters and talked to us about Project Linus. We distributed kits to make tied fleece or crochet-edged fleece blankets and instructions for knitting or crocheting blankets. All instructions can be found at projectlinus.org. We had more than 20 blankets made by people ranging in age from 8 to 93 during the month of July.

Food Pantries and Advocacy

In August our non-profit is FeedMoreWNY, the umbrella organization for the food pantries and Meals on Wheels in our region.  They were happy to provide us with a speaker for our Zoom kick-off meeting and to review our activity packet. We chose to focus on raising funds and advocacy rather than on a food drive because they can make our funds go a lot further than they would if we bought food ourselves, and with COVID, it is more complicated to deal with donated food than food they purchase from wholesalers. We developed a packet with one activity for each of the 4 weeks of the month. For each week, there is a donation and advocacy activity; each activity teaches a little bit about hunger.

You can see a copy of what we sent to families here. Please note that this document is particular to our community and its needs.

We had planned on this being only a summer activity, but the response has been so good, we are looking at non-profits and activities for September and October right now. Next month we may do something with our local Family Justice Center. The following month we may work with the Buffalo WaterKeepers, and then circle back to having people write notes again.

These are not complex service actions, but they feel about right for where our congregation and our community are in the midst of the pandemic.


The Rev. Vicki Zust has been the rector of St. Paul’s, Harris Hill for 11 years.  She is a native of Columbus, Ohio and served as Canon to the Ordinary in Southern Ohio before becoming Rector of St. Paul’s.

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