Nestled on the banks of the Rogue River in northern Jackson County, Shady Cove is a city of almost 3,000 people. St. Martin’s Episcopal Church has many close ties within the community, including counting amongst its members the mayor, a city planner, and volunteers with Friends of the Library. They also cheerfully participate in community activities such as the city’s annual Chili Cookoff despite being “robbed” of victory every year by the Fire Department.
Once dependent upon the timber industry, the local economy has suffered in recent decades. The Rev. Deacon Allan Miles recounts that church members devote many hours, day and night, to reach out in various way to people who need help. In this independent area, there is a high value on neighbors supporting neighbors without relying on government help, and the people of St. Martin’s believe it is their calling as Christians to take care of people regardless of their affiliation with the church.
One growing ministry of St. Martin’s is their Laundry Love program. About a year ago, volunteers started going to a local laundromat once a month to provide soap, dryer sheets, and coins to run the machines. Now they go twice a month, and share the observation that while there are some homeless people who come, the majority of Laundry Love participants are people who work but just don’t earn enough to cover all their expenses.
It is similar at the monthly food pantry, where St. Martin’s offers food for humans and pets alike. In the summertime, fresh local gardens provide fresh produce, while a woman with a soft spot for animals gives a substantial financial gift every month to buy animal food. This addresses an important need of many elder people, for whom a dog or cat is a precious source of company and comfort.
The environment of Shady Cove also influences church activities. In the summer, they hold picnics on the riverfront properties of church members to foster a sense of fun and community. The Rogue River also played an important role in the church’s Easter weekend services. On Good Friday, members walked through town from the church down to the river, taking turns carrying a wooden cross and stopping to observe the Stations of the Cross along the way. Then on Easter Sunday, they used water from the river for a baptism.
In June, priest Tom Buechele will be retiring, but the friendly, tight-knit community of St. Martin’s will continue caring for each other and their neighbors with love, laughter, and dedication.