July 2016
Buildings & Grounds [& Mission]

Mission Focused Buildings

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Canandaigua, New York is not so different from other parishes. Our 143-year old roof leaks. We’re in the Historic District, which restricts some of what we would like to do. Our website needs some “jazzing up,” and we’re trying to hone in on the perfect mission statement for us. We’ve got a ways to go.

What we do have happening is expanding mission and ministry as we continue to open our doors to the community after having been insular for too long. That’s not to say we haven’t had ministry happening here. For the past 28 years we have operated a weekday lunch program, Gleaners Community Kitchen (Kitchen). This meal is free and open to the public with no questions asked; over time it has grown from a handful of people to an average of 70 guests per day. Over 65 volunteers come in each week to assist in cooking, serving, and washing dishes and to interact with our guests. When it began, our neighbors were less than happy that “those people” were walking through the neighborhood to get to the Kitchen. Over time and with a lot of patience and various discussions, acceptance has come.

But the Kitchen wasn’t enough. Our bishop, Prince Singh, is constantly preaching mission and outreach, as bishops do. We’ve taken that call very seriously, using what we already have going for us. While we offer space for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, as well as Daisy Girl Scouts and Cub and Boy Scouts, we know we have been called to more.

With new leadership, our parish has looked for ways to expand mission and ministry without stretching ourselves so thin that we couldn’t do anything well and to use our buildings and grounds more “mission-effectively.” It has been an evolutionary process. About five years ago, with a gift from the Bishop, we began the “Red Wagon Pantry,” an inhouse food cupboard for our Kitchen guests. The next year we decided to tear up a lush green lawn at the back of the church to add a kitchen garden. Again, some of the surrounding neighbors were not happy, but the community kicked in. City officials supported our effort. Local garden clubs have consistently supplied seeds, plants, soil, fertilizer, and tools. Lowe’s in Canandaigua gifted us fencing and the labor to put it up and paint it. Volunteers show up regularly to water and tend the garden – the produce from which goes to support the lunch program. A master gardener comes in to teach young people and others how to garden successfully. In the past two years we have received grants from the local hospital to teach food prep and safety. This program is run by a local college professor.

One of the ways we have been strengthened and able to expand our program assistance and support is through our participation in the county Workforce Development (WDP) and Summer Youth Employment Programs (SYEP). These programs allow participants who receive public assistance through the county (housing, food stamps, Medicaid) to get on-the-job-experience and training and, in the case of SYEP, to be paid for up to 29 hours of work per week. Placements have been made in the Kitchen, the food pantry, the gardens, helping with the upkeep of the grounds, and for the overall care of the property and the day-to-day workings of our outreach programs. The WDP and SYEP participants become part of our staff team. While most move on to other employment after a relatively short time, many return to visit and reconnect. It is a win-win for all.

Since we interact daily with a population that includes people who are homeless and those for whom poverty is a serious reality, we offer some auxiliary services like blood pressure checks through a local nursing program, a clothing mending service on Tuesdays offered by a very creative deacon, and an inhouse food pantry. These all happen within the dining room space of the Kitchen itself.

The former rectory, unused for nearly 25 years and in disrepair, sits adjacent to the church and parish hall. It has seemed to be the logical place for use as a mission and ministry center yet
until recently, we haven’t realized the potential opportunities. This past spring, two opportunities surfaced and our desire to open a ministry center is beginning to take shape. With the assistance and generosity of a couple of local hair stylists, twice a month we are able to offer free haircuts to our luncheon guests, on the back porch of the former rectory. We’ll move inside come fall. A parishioner, a retired teacher who has worked at Gleaners Community Kitchen for several years, has seen the need for reading assistance for some of our guests. As a result, St. John’s has entered into an agreement with the local Literacy Volunteers program. We will offer one-on-one and small group tutoring and financial and kitchen literacy classes by the end of summer.

The parish applied for a small grant from the Diocesan Council and will transform the dual parlors and the kitchen of the rectory into a learning and outreach center. The dining room will become our barber shop!

After many years, the old rectory will be abuzz with life again, albeit differently. And, as our bishop preaches, we’re keeping our ears and eyes open for more.

David Hefling, ObJN+, has been the rector of St. John’s, Canandaigua, since 2010. He hails from Northeast Ohio where he was a teacher and university administrator for many years. A 2003 graduate of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, he is Dean of the Northeast District, co-chaired the recent search for DioRochester’s Canon to the Ordinary, has been a member of the Commission on Ministry, Diocesan Convention Planning Committee, New Clergy Mentor group, and has been a field education supervisor and mentor in Rochester and the Diocese of Massachusetts. He lives in Canandaigua with his spouse, Michael Dudley, a retired priest.

Try This

Despite aging buildings in need of repair, St. John’s Episcopal Church continues to open their doors to the community to further extend their mission and ministry “after having been insular for too long.” They also have developed relationships with county offices and local businesses, allowing this smaller congregation offer additional services to their lunch guests.

In what ways are your church buildings serving your congregation’s mission and hopeful vision for the future? Have you considered partnering with local workforce development or other agencies or businesses as a way to expand your own capacity?


The City of Canandaigua has worked with us consistently on property related issues and has been quite supportive and helpful. The Office of Development and Planning is where we have turned for assistance, Rick Brown, Director.

The Episcopal Diocese of Rochester’s grant programs: For our ministry center start we applied for a Parish Mission Grant in the amount of $3,000 for computer equipment, paint, and supplies. We are anxiously waiting to learn the status of our application.

Gleaners Community Kitchen and the Red Wagon Pantry are both volunteer-based community programs. We are one of 500 partner agencies with FoodLink, the Rochester based food pantry and support program, and we are supported by local grants, gifts from judicatories and our own diocese, individuals, and other corporations. Fundraising events are held annually. Tom Carter, USN, Retired, is the Kitchen Manager.

Let’s Move! Faith Community Garden Guide, ECF Vital Practices resource

Literacy Volunteers prospectivetutors.html offer one-on-one tutoring, teach reading in small groups, English as a Second Language, and financial and kitchen literacy skills. We are partnering with them for training and program specifics. Margaret Morrison White, from the parish, is the coordinator of this ministry.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, Canandaigua, NY

Sew Green Rochester is a ministry founded by Episcopal deacon Georgia Carney. Her mending ministry began at St. John’s, where it continues! Learn more here: info@sewgreenrochester.org

Tips for Parishes Considering a Food Pantry Garden, ECF Vital Practices resource

The Workforce Development Program and the Summer Youth Employment Program are offered by Ontario County, New York. Our building manager, Ruth Dainty, is the coordinator for those people who work on-site.

Don't miss an issue of Vestry Papers! Sign up for your free subscription here.

This article is part of the July 2016 Vestry Papers issue on Buildings & Grounds [& Mission]