Congregation Close-up: St. Timothy’s, Brookings

Congregation Close-up: St. Timothy’s, Brookings

In the years before the Affordable Care Act and the accompanying Medicaid expansion in Oregon, a volunteer-run clinic at St. Timothy provided health care for 25% of the working-age population in Brookings. One day during the clinic, a man in need of attention came (it seemed) out of the bushes. Long lacking access to bathing facilities, the man’s odor and unwashed skin overwhelmed the doctor and made it impossible to conduct a thorough examination. Suddenly, a long-neglected shower fixture (installed in 1984 to accommodate youth group overnights that never actually happened) took on new purpose as the doctor ushered the man in to bathe, and the shower ministry of St. Timothy was born.

With the shower already in place, the church made one other essential ministry investment: prioritizing a budget with funds to hire two parish administrators, Clare Price and Pat Brookfield, to be on site during the hours the building is open. Rev. Bernie Lindley is quick to point out that Clare and Pat are not just secretaries – they are long-time members of St. Timothy and an important part of the ministry, providing caring faces and honoring the words of Jesus to bring a group of two or three together for prayer. And when they arrive to unlock the doors three mornings each week, the people who enter step into a place of welcome – and the possibility that they have as much to give as they receive.

Over the years, people coming for showers have taken on the responsibility of making the coffee and setting out the snacks available each day, creating a hospitable communal space. St. Timothy employs no custodial staff, and it is quite common for someone to take a shower and then spend a few minutes sweeping the steps or washing coffee cups. Two men come around each week to care for the community garden, taking ownership of that space and using their skills and energy to build something for the greater good. The vegetables they grow are regularly incorporated into the sack lunches and Community Kitchen meals provided by St. Timothy’s feeding ministry.

In this county of just 14,000 people, the congregation of St. Timothy has a reputation for being a vital part of the social fabric in what is a largely unchurched area. With a bivocational priest (Bernie+ works as a commercial fisherman) the congregation’s enthusiasm for and ownership of ministries is critical in keeping St. Timothy’s doors open to everyone.

This energy overflows into the greater Brookings community and creates connections that draw in volunteers from outside the church. Showers are just one part of being clean, and when it became obvious that the church could not meet the need to wash clothes and sleeping bags, it was a mother’s friend’s daughter who owns a laundromat that stepped up to offer detergent and the use of her industrial-sized washers and dryers. Another woman provides haircuts, and others – acknowledging the church’s history as a trustworthy funnel of goods and services – donate clothes, money, and even vehicles. Recently, a woman hours from living in her car came to St. Timothy for help. In what can only be described as God’s perfect timing, someone had just donated a fifth wheel trailer, which by that very evening was set up in an RV park, giving the woman a new home.

For Bernie+, who was baptized into the congregation as a child, served as an acolyte in his youth, and was called to consider ordination by the parish’s previous priest, St. Timothy is a place of transformation. He was molded by the congregation and encouraged by their commitment to outreach and caring for people in need. He cites Matthew 25:31-46 as a guiding inspiration for the people of St. Timothy, and credits parishioners with striving to deeply embody the values of love, justice and peace that they commit to in the Baptismal Covenant.

Visit the St. Timothy’s website.

This story was originally featured in the Summer 2017 edition of In Conversation, our diocesan magazine. To subscribe to the magazine, email Heidi Pitts, Director of Communications.