The Rev. Ronald Garner has covered a lot of ground and has no plans to stop.
The Rev. Kay Albright just recently bolted from the starting blocks. She doesn’t see a finish line, either.
Both are now seeing triple. But no need for alarm –– their new vision has been prompted by the generosity of their respective congregations as the UCC’s Mission:1 campaign to fight hunger concludes.
Garner, pastor at Wantagh (N.Y.) Memorial Congregational UCC, completed on Nov. 11 a 111-mile walk as part of Mission:1. He walked from Montauk Lighthouse to the Freeport Emergency Food Pantry to collect food for the pantry. His church’s goal was 1,111 items. They ended up with 3,333, including donations from local supermarkets that Garner collected along the way.
"I'd like to collect 12,000 food items over the course of 2012," said Garner via the church’s Facebook page. "I think it will be worthwhile because [Long Island's] food pantries are quite low, as so many more people are using them. They are really scrambling for food."
Garner was joined for the last 4 miles by members of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, a congregation that provides organic vegetables to the Freeport Emergency Food Pantry; and Tom Goodhue, director of the Long Island Council of Churches.
In Charleston, W. Va., members of new-church start Bridges of Grace UCC blew away Pastor Kay.
"The great, awesome thing about Mission:1 was that we could jump in at our level and participate," said Albright. "I threw out a number of 111 food products to collect for our pantry, and we tripled it. We tripled it. I cried at worship. I asked for 100 things, and I got more than 300."
Worshiping for just nine months together, with an average weekly attendance of “about 17,” Albright said all she had to do was mention Mission:1 one time.
"They just stepped up and are so willing to help," she said. "That whole idea of being the hand that feeds, and of following Jesus –– they just took it and ran with it."
"This was a perfect opportunity for us to participate in something bigger than ourselves,” said Albright, “to get a connection to the wider church and see what other churches are doing. I’m still branding the UCC in West Virginia. Doing this project was a way that I could make a connection to the wider church on a larger scale. What a unifying connection. It was a common language, even at meetings the past few months.”
"It’s part of the good stuff that God’s doing in West Virginia," she said.