“Give thanks and praise to our Lord and share His love.”
This is the mission statement of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Eugene. And the people of St. Thomas seek to live out our stated mission day-in and day-out, as individuals and as a parish as a whole.
Certainly, we give thanks and praise to our Lord in our worship, Bible studies, prayer life, and stewardship, and we share God’s love within our own parish community in our individual encounters, small groups, and shared meals. We seek, however, to reach out to others beyond our own congregation.
One significant way that we live out our mission is with our use of space, our buildings and grounds. St. Thomas is blessed to have not only a lovely worship space, but also a large parish hall and kitchen, meeting rooms, and significant acreage. Making our church campus available to a number of outreach ministries and community groups is integral to living out our mission.
For example, in 1990 about 2.5 acres of the church’s property were leased to FOOD for Lane County as a space for the food bank to grow fresh vegetables and other produce for the soup kitchens and senior meal sites in Lane County. The Grassroots Garden yields 60,000-70,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year to feed the hungry in our community. In addition, garden volunteers teach “Seed to Supper” classes and cook a hot lunch each day to serve the hundreds of volunteers who work in the garden.
Another way we are able to provide space for outreach is with the Community Counseling Center, located in an old farm house on the campus. The CCC, an institution of the Diocese of Oregon, was started by members of St. Thomas in 1978 and provides services to limited income persons. In 2017, more than 60 volunteer mental health professionals served 225 low income clients through more than two thousand individual and group counseling sessions. Although clients pay for the services they receive, payments are on a sliding scale and amount to only a small portion of the budget, which is funded primarily by individual contributions and grants.
Our campus is also the home of St. Thomas Preschool, which was established in the early 1960’s and serves about 120 children each year. In addition to their classes, the children attend chapel with the rector of St. Thomas each month, put on a Christmas pageant each December, and participate in many other activities in the parish hall and Grassroots Garden.
Finally, we offer our parish hall to a variety of outside groups that need a large, comfortable meeting place. AA, NarAnon, the Lions Club, and classes in Tai Chi and yoga are among the many groups that use our space.
We at St. Thomas are grateful that our facilities and grounds enable us to reach out to our community in so many different ways, to serve others in mind, body, and spirit. We are, however, always looking for additional ways to connect with our neighbors, to be “missional” in our parish life, to create alternative “doorways” into our church so that we may share God’s love with all.