… To be God’s hands and feet, striving to use our time, talents, and money to support those in need …
Erin’s Outreach Team is hard at work supporting over 20 organizations that help those in need here in Knoxville, in East Tennessee, and throughout the nation and the world with compassion, mutual respect, and love.
FISH HOSPITALITY PANTRIES
FISH Hospitality Pantries locations in Knoxville provide groceries to more than 7,000 families each month, and Erin Church is proud to partner with them.
Executive director Jim Wright and fellow members of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Bearden established the nonprofit in 1986 after Jim, who volunteered for other local food pantries, noticed that some families were turned away because the came to the pantry too often.
When Jim visited the families, he found their incomes were so low they would be considered destitute. He felt that turning them away seemed to go against the Biblical mandate to feed the hungry. He set up a new food pantry based on Biblical hospitality. Today more than fifty churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are active supporters.
FISH pantries are located in low-income neighborhoods, and those who come for food are welcomed as guests. Wright’s vision of hospitality, welcome, and inclusiveness has led FISH Hospitality Pantries to launch multicultural programs designed to break down barriers and build true community. Volunteers and guests sharing with one another and working together toward economic equality reduces small-mindedness, fearfulness, isolation, and loneliness and encourages less self-centered lives. It also increases a sense of belonging and security.
Approximately one third of pantry volunteers first came as guests in need of food. Their personal experiences and insights ensure that pantry procedures and policies reflect a respect for the dignity of every person.
Erin has supported FISH through our Outreach budget, for decades. In 2022, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, we again started volunteering one Saturday morning each quarter at the pantry on Scott Avenue, just north of downtown. Though other food pantries shut down during the worst of the pandemic due to dwindling resources and the understandable fears of their volunteers, many of whom were older and faced a higher risk of serious illness, FISH realized they were an essential service. Operations moved outside, and volunteers and guests wore masks so that the pantry could meet the increased need. They saw that the same Spirit that called them to this mission and guided them through the years was still very much present.
As one of FISH’s frequent volunteers said, “If you are a volunteer, you will see the eyes of a young mother fill with tears as she realizes she will be able to feed her family. You will see the amazement on the faces of new guests when they realize there is nothing they have to prove, no story, no ID, nothing. Just go through the line and pick out groceries. You will hear one guest tell another, ‘this is the nicest place to be.’”
Many of our usual activities were affected by the COVID pandemic over the past couple of years, but the determination and creative thinking of the ministries we support allowed them to continue their critical work. After months of lockdown and restrictions on meeting together, Erin’s members are able to again support local partners in person.
Erin participated in the four annual PC(USA) offerings: the Peace and Global Witness Offering in October, the Joy Offering in December, the One Great Hour of Sharing in April, and the Pentecost Offering in June. In response to the pandemic, we added announcements of these offerings to our online worship services and included instructions for donating through the Erin website, and are happy to report that even when we could not meet in person for worship Erin’s members contributed just as much.
Erin members gathered towels, washcloths, and blankets for the homeless clients of Volunteer Ministry Center in downtown Knoxville.
After several years’ hiatus we resumed volunteering at FISH Hospitality Pantry on the last Saturday of February, and continued volunteering on Saturday mornings once each quarter. Fourteen Erin members gave up their Saturday morning on February 26 to help more than 200 clients—many of them families with children—choose food items donated by local grocery stores and other programs.
The Outreach Team created a list of Forty Things to Do During Lent. Each item included an inspiring quote and a concrete action, and many of the actions involved missions Erin supports. A list was sent out at the beginning of each week via email and Facebook.
The congregation collected diapers and baby wipes for the refugee family from Syria that our sister church, Powell Presbyterian, is sponsoring. Pastor Katina Sharp and Director of Music Becca McCurdy are former members of Erin and we were thrilled to support their small church in this huge endeavor.
A fund in memory of a longtime Erin member helped pay tuition for Pastor Mamisoa Rakatomalala of Madagascar, who visited Erin during our mission fair in 2017, as she pursued a graduate degree at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. The congregation signed a card and contributed toward a gift certificate to congratulate her on her graduation with highest honors in May.
A dozen Erin members served 211 guests at FISH Hospitality Pantry on Saturday, May 28.
We sent $500 from the Outreach budget to Central Bearden Baptist Church to help with meals and snacks for volunteers working at the Remote Area Medical Clinic held in their building the weekend of June 24-26. Volunteer doctors, nurses, and dentists provided free care to more than 250 area residents who could not afford health care or health insurance.
Around 40 Erin members and friends attended the Justice Knox Nehemiah Assembly on May 2 at the World’s Fair Park amphitheater. City and county officials agreed to specific steps to improve public transportation, deliver affordable housing, reduce gun violence, and promote more equitable discipline in our schools.
Five Erin youth and two adult leaders participated in a mission trip to Sunset Gap. Outreach contributed $500 from our budget for supplies the kids needed to complete cleaning and construction projects.
We sent the $450 remaining in our team’s budget to Knoxville Utilities Board. They have a program to assist members of the community who have a hard time paying their bills, and need for the program has increased significantly as a result of the war in Ukraine and rising energy costs.
Sixteen Erin members, including several new faces, volunteered at FISH Hospitality Pantry on Saturday morning, August 27.
Erin joined Justice Knox, a coalition of local congregations working to address the root causes of issues that affect our community. The organizational meeting for Erin was held via Zoom on September 6.
Erin participated in the Peace and Global Witness Offering, one of the PC(USA)’s four yearly offerings. Twenty-five percent of the funds collected stay in our community, and we sent this portion to Safe Haven Empowerment House, a group working with pre-teen and teenage boys in the Austin-East community.
We collected clothing, household items, and cleaning supplies for Presbyterian congregations affected by severe flooding in Waverly, Tennessee. We also sent funds to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to support their help on the ground in Waverly and other crisis areas around the world.
Erin gathered health and hygiene items, blankets, and pillows for clients of Sunset Gap who are homeless and often sleep in their cars. Jigsaw puzzles were popular during the COVID shutdown, and an Erin family donated puzzles for members to purchase with a donation to Sunset Gap.
More than 25 Erin members participated in the Justice Knox fall kick-off at First Baptist Church downtown, and Erin was recognized as a new partner congregation.
We again supported Compassion Closet, which provides much-needed items for foster parents in Knoxville who often take in children on very short notice. We hung a Christmas tree with 50 tags describing specific needs. Erin members purchased or provided funds for cribs, diapers, car seats, children’s clothing, and toys and placed them under the tree. (PHOTO in Feb 2022 Erin newsletter)
Many of us used our unexpected time at home during the pandemic to clean out closets, and as a result we collected more than 50 new and gently used coats for the Morgan-Scott Project. This is, as far as we can remember, the most we’ve donated in the more than 25 years Erin has participated in the Coats for the Cold program.
FISH Hospitality Pantries
Florence Crittenton Agency
Helen Ross McNabb Center
Hope House—UT Chattanooga campus ministry
Interfaith Health Clinic
John Knox Center, Kingston, Tennessee
Maryville College Center for Campus Ministry
Mobile Meals of Knoxville
Morgan Scott Project, Deer Lodge, Tennessee
Near East School of Theology, Beirut, Lebanon
New Hope for Guatemala
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Presbyterian Mission Partners: Dan and Elizabeth Turk, Madagascar
Presbyterian Shared Mission
Sunset Gap Community Center, Cosby, Tennessee
UKirk Knoxville—UT Campus Ministry
Volunteer Ministry Center
Where is God calling you to share your faith, time and talents?
Come to our Sunday worship service where one of our team members can give you more information on how you can help through volunteering, planning, fundraising, and more. You can also join us for our monthly meetings, held the second Sunday each month after worship in the Outreach room.