At a ministry fair Oct. 17 at the Episcopal Church of St. Peter by-the-Lake in Denver, 34 of the church's nearly 50 ministry and outreach programs showcased their efforts.
The church began the annual fair in 2002 to help new parishioners learn of the opportunities available in the church and community. Even longtime church members learn about activities and services based at St. Peter.
"It's a vehicle for the people of the church to find, in one room, all that the church is doing, which is a lot," said Carole Rowell, who greeted visitors at the HOPIN booth. The group, whose name stands for Helping Our Parishioners in Need, provides meals for sick or homebound parishioners.
Founded by a member who was comforted by the support she received when her husband died of brain cancer, the group now uses the Internet-based program Meal Train to organize food preparation and delivery.
Because so many of the church's activities involve food, there is also a kitchen ministry that coordinates food preparation and keeps the kitchen stocked with supplies.
Jennifer Baker, a member of St. Peter for nine years, said the kitchen is one of the busiest spots in the church. A weekly coffee hour after services often includes a meal. The ministry also holds memorial receptions after funerals, weekly suppers during Lent, and big annual events like the Sunday school kickoff barbecue.
The weekend before the fair, St. Peter's assistant minister got married at the church, and the bishop visited; both occasions required extensive food preparation.
"One of the things I've always liked about this church is that it's very, very active," Baker said.
The church provides volunteers for East Lincoln Christian Ministry and Habitat for Humanity, which recently completed three houses in the County and soon will begin Brush with Kindness, a program sponsored by Valspar to paint homes for people unable to do it themselves.
"The churches are always the main source of volunteers," said Bil Lifsey, a Habitat volunteer since 1999. He and his wife, Jane, have traveled worldwide to help with building projects.
The church works with Five Talents International, an Episcopal organization that teaches business skills and provides micro-financing to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Bill Baker, who has volunteered in both Kenya and Uganda, said the seminars teach simple strategies, such as keeping business and family finances separate in order to track profits accurately.
He cited several success stories from the towns he has visited: the mother who runs a grocery store, the Ugandan man who used a Five Talents loan to start a shoe repair business. According to Five Talents, a $200 loan can create one job, which will support nine people.
Baker said the people he's encountered are highly motivated, but they may lack skills to ensure a successful business.
"It's really exciting and humbling to see how industrious these folks are," he said.
St. Peter's international missions also include work with Episcopal Relief and Development, which provides hunger relief and other supplies to countries worldwide. Its Nets for Life program provides mosquito nets to malaria-plagued areas of Africa. One $12 net can save three lives.
Such seemingly small efforts, when combined, can have a big impact in both the local and the global community.
The ministry fair illustrated not only what a small group of people - the church has just a couple of hundred active members - can do, but also that the church is not just a place to go. It's a dynamic, living part of the community.