Note: Rev. Deets was asked to provide an update on Trinity Church at the 2016 Diocese of Pennsylvania annual convention. Below is the text of that address.
Convention Report – November 5, 2016
Trinity Church and Community Engagement
Good morning! My name is Sherry Deets and I come to you this morning as the Rector of Trinity Church in Coatesville. Not that long ago, you would have seen Trinity, Coatesville in the budget as an aided parish, so it seems appropriate that I give you a report on where we stand now and how your assistance was not in vain and is greatly appreciated.
So, we are no longer on the budget as an aided parish, we have what we call a bare-bones budget, but it is balanced. We still struggle with the finances, but manage to do so joyfully. And that’s what I want to share with you.
When I was first called to Trinity in 2002, there was talk of closing the parish. As time moved on, we began our shift, our transformation, we stood on the threshold where fear enters into freedom. We transformed into a community that wanted to live into our call to share the love of Christ with others. And there is a great need to do that right where we are…in the heart of the City of Coatesville. For those who don’t know Coatesville, it is an old steel town. When the steel industry declined, so did the City…into a pocket of poverty in the midst of a wealthy Chester County. The city manifests all of the urban issues related to poverty – drugs, the crime that goes along with drugs, etc.
So at a Vestry Retreat in 2009, we were looking at a vacant lot next to the church – a lot that was an eyesore. The dream we dreamed, the vision, was to turn that empty lot into a community garden. We figured that while it sat empty, why couldn’t we take advantage of that resource?
We were at the threshold. I admit, I thought that seemed a bit more than we could manage and placed the outcome into God’s hands. In other words, let’s put it out there into the wider community and see how the Spirit moves. Well, the Spirit moved in a grand way. The City administration fully embraced and supported the idea, the developer who owns the land gave permission to use the lot, the Chester County Food Bank fully embraced and guided us, many community leaders stood behind us. So, with the assistance of the wider community, Trinity organized the creation of what has become a 35 – bed community garden next to the church. It has been growing and nurturing some of the residents of the community for 6 six years now. Young children who have never experienced gardening are learning how to dig in the dirt, are getting their hands dirty and learning where vegetables actually come from.
From the garden experiences sprang the idea of a free, healthy meal which is cooked and served at Trinity on a monthly basis. We believe that by actually enjoying tasty, healthy food the message gets across that eating healthy can taste good and you can make it yourself.
And then, we sat back and realized that as Trinity Church, we were pretty darn gifted at food and hospitality. So, when a new member came up with the idea of a Veterans Brunch, we recognized that a neighbor of ours, “on the hill” is the Coatesville VA Medical Center. The VA administration embraced the idea. Now, once a month, on the last Sunday of each month, the hospitalized Vets are bused down to our church for a brunch, made up of mostly homemade food. They love it! We love it. There is no better way to get to know the person in the next pew than by rolling up your sleeves and working together.
Now, remember that we struggle financially yet, the love we want to share and are sharing has somehow made all of this possible. The growth continues because of partnerships….We are grateful to churches in our Deanery who have supported us and our ministries over the years – Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, St. Andrews in West Vincent, Church of the Advent in Kennett Square. We give great thanks to the Chester County Food Bank who makes the continued growth in the garden possible. The City of Coatesville, County agencies, Partners for Sacred Places, The Stewart Huston Charitable Trust, The Society for the Advancement of Christianity. Partnerships are a wonderful way to share the love of Christ in our community.
And now, as the City of Coatesville works toward it’s own transformation, we are involved at the core. One of our vestry members is part of the 2nd Century Alliance that is working to bring positive change, to bring new development, to the City. A community in which we are a vital part, in which we see our church walls as porous, in which we see ourselves as living into our call to be the light of Christ in our world. And there is more….I am a police chaplain, we do Christmas gifting for children, clothing collections for shelters, and more.
We stand in the threshold between fear and freedom. May we continue to live into the freedom of loving our neighbor and experiencing the joy that comes with that freedom. We sometimes fail at our endeavors, but that’s OK…we can brush of the dirt and try something else. Our community engagement has been transforming.
And so, thanks be to God for all of you, for your support and for the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us that give us that courage to change, to transform, to lean into God’s future for the world, especially as we look to celebrate 150 years of faith in Coatesville. Amen.