“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” – I Peter 4:10
The Episcopal Parish of Alton (EPA) is blessed to have active and ongoing ministries in which people can serve in their own unique way based on God’s design and purpose for their life. Abundant opportunities exist for parishioners to be part of active groups that serve our community and you will find us well represented as volunteers and board members for numerous area organizations, associations, and health care facilities like Alton Memorial Hospital, Pride Inc., and Riverbend Head Start and Family Services.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
This dedicated group of parish volunteers is responsible for the care and preparations of the altars and all important elements used during worship service and celebration of the Eucharist or any other sacraments of the church, including baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
Working under the direction of the clergy, members prepare the altar for the Eucharist and take care of the linens, vestments, brass and silver, acolyte equipment, candles, and flowers. Altar Guild volunteers also oversee altar decorations for special holiday services, including preparation of a large cross made entirely of flowers installed by all children attending Easter worship service.
Spiritual growth and enrichment have always been an important element of adult education in the Episcopal Parish of Alton. Bible Study has been an active ministry for the past forty years and is held every Tuesday morning at 10:15 am in Trinity Chapel’s fellowship hall with the celebration of the Eucharist at 9:30 a.m.
For folks who enjoy a good read that inspires interesting and intellectual exchange, our parish Book Club meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 9:30 am at various locations. Please call 465-9149 to find out where the next location will be. Come join this lively group of bookworms for stimulating discussion and dialogue covering book selections from N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings to The Reader by Bernard Schlink.
St. Paul’s talented choristers practice each week and prior to Sunday morning worship service then lead parishioners in traditional and classical hymns to enrich the worship experience. Comprised of volunteer parishioners with musical backgrounds ranging from folks who simply love to sing to high school music instructors or musicians with professional experience, our choir director is always looking for a new Alto, Soprano, Tenor, or Bass to join his choral ensemble and raise their voice in song and praise.
EPISCOPAL CHURCH MEN (ECM)
This fellowship of men supports the parish and local charities, like Crisis Food Pantry and Oasis Women’s Shelter, with Mum and Geranium sales, hosting the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Lenten Fish Fries, and sponsoring the Book Nook.
The Episcopal Church Men of the EPA has also “gone green” in recent years by providing recycling services to the parish and community at large for the return of used ink cartridges and scrap metals. Every Christmas they open their annual holiday party to the entire parish for year-end fellowship and festivities.
EPISCOPAL CHURCH WOMEN (ECW)
This fellowship of women supports and finances the parish, as well as the Episcopal Church Women organization at the Diocesan level. The Episcopal women of the EPA have long maintained contact with parish shut-ins through their monthly greeting card program, in addition to providing gifts to newly baptized parishioners and Prayer Books to adult confirmands. This group of hard-working and talented women hosts funeral luncheons upon request for families who have lost a loved one and each year our parishioners look forward to their brunches celebrating “Back to School” and “End of School” milestones.
GUILD OF GRACE
Organized over thirty years ago as an opportunity for young parish mothers of small children to enjoy an evening of fellowship together, Guild of Grace’s mission remains the support of our parish children and families by staffing and equipping the Nursery.
Guild of Grace provides dinner for families with new babies, Prayer Books for youth confirmands, and end-of-semester treats for our parish college students. Funds are raised to meet these commitments through Guild sponsorship of an annual Chili Supper before the Alton Halloween Parade and providing catering services for the Annual Meeting Brunch and other parish celebrations held in the parish fellowship hall.
LAY LITURGICAL MINISTRY
Lay ministry for St. Paul’s Church and Trinity Chapel includes Acolytes, Lectors, Chalice Bearers, Intercessors, Lay Ministers, and Ushers and Greeters.
Acolytes, composed of both youth and adults, assist the celebrant and enhance the worship services by leading the processions, assisting in the preparation of the altar for the Holy Eucharist, and incense at special services.
Young people, as well as adults, have the opportunity through this ministry to assume leadership roles in our parish, learn our traditions and actively participate in worship services in a spiritually memorable way.
Lectors, Chalice Bearers, Intercessors, and Lay Ministers fulfill their ministry by being an integral part of our worship liturgy – assisting the clergy with readings from the Old and New Testament, leading the Prayers of the People, and serving in the celebration and distribution of the Eucharist.
Ushers and Greeters serve our parish by providing a warm welcome and greeting to all who join us for worship on Sunday mornings and special services. They provide them with a worship booklet, bulletins, leaflets, hearing assisted devices, and ‘busy bags’ for our “little visitors.” Ushers assist during the service with seating, take a headcount, collect the offering, and guide communicants to the altar rail. They also lead the celebrant to communicants in the congregation who are unable to walk to the altar rail and assist in other ways during the worship service as necessary. Greeters provide a warm welcome to parishioners and visitors before and after worship, bring the communion elements to the altar rail, and host visitors during coffee hour in our parish fellowship hall.
PARISH LIBRARY AND BOOKSTORE
A visit to our parish library or bookstore, both located in St. Paul’s Heneghan Hall, provides a real treat for those looking for a good book, CD, or DVD to enrich their lives, as well as that unique gift item for family or friend.
With its diverse collection of books, CD/DVDs, or video cassettes, our parish library provides a rich collection of resource materials available for individuals seeking deeper spiritual growth and enrichment to checkout and study at their own pace.
Come in to check out the most recent CD additions like songs, praise, or chants from Taize, The Voice of an Angel by Charlotte Church, or Music for Holy Week from the choir of King’s College; or available on DVD are The Passion of Christ, Schindler’s List, Jeremiah, 4 Bible Stores-a collection to name a few.
Visitors to our parish bookstore will find a wonderful display and array of daily devotional and spiritually enriching books, pamphlets, or materials as well as unique gift items that support local and regional ministries.
From soaps made by hand and blessed by the Benedictine Sisters in Clyde, MO, coffee bean totes are sewn by women in transition from Sun Ministries in North St. Louis, to handmade cards or Episcopal Pups calendars, a visit to the Book Store can become a real delightful challenge for folks who simply want in a drop in for a moment or two to check out the latest additions.
TRINITY MISSIONARY SOCIETY
Trinity Missionary Society was organized to oversee the hospitality functions at Trinity Chapel, manage Trinity Endowments, and maintain a working relationship with the Presbyterian congregation that rents the chapel for weekly services. They are responsible for cleaning and routine maintenance of the chapel facility and advise Vestry of major maintenance or improvements needed.
UNITED THANK OFFERING
The mission of United Thank Offering (UTO) is to expand the circle of thankful people. To achieve this mission we encourage daily prayers, offerings, and awareness of the abundance of God’s blessings. Through the United Thank Offering, men, women, and children nurture the habit of giving daily thanks to God. These prayers of thanksgiving start when we recognize and name our many daily blessings. Those who participate in the UTO have discovered that thankfulness leads to generosity. A short prayer of thanksgiving leads to an offering in each individual’s blue UTO box. The boxes are distributed in the spring and fall before the money is collected. All offerings are used to support grants for ministries at home and overseas as an outreach of the Episcopal Church. Prayers and offerings make it possible for the UTO mission to stretch in unexpected ways.
BLESSING OF THE ANIMALS
The annual Blessing of the Animals is an event held every fall in the garden at St. Paul’s. Open to parishioners as well as the public, all are welcome to bring their family-friendly pets to the garden where our Rector blesses each of God’s precious creatures who bless so many of our lives. All donations from this event, from monetary to pet supplies, go to support 5A’s Animal Shelter.
COATS FOR KIDS
New and gently used coats and gift cards to local stores are collected and donated to this organization each fall to help provide school-age children in our area with much-needed protection against cold Midwest winters.
CRISIS FOOD CENTER
Food contributions collected before and after Sunday morning worship are donated to Crisis Food Center on a weekly basis. In addition to proceeds donated from our annual Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, monetary donations are made each month to help this organization located in downtown Alton to provide food to the growing number of hungry families in our area.
MARKET STREET BLOCK PARTY
As an urban church located in downtown Alton on the corner of Market Street & Third, St. Paul’s collaborates with three (3) other churches in the immediate neighborhood each year to host the annual Market Street Block Party. This event is free and offers food, recreation, and entertainment to kids and adults who live in the immediate area or are in need of free medical services. St. Paul’s opens its doors to host a health fair that offerings free screenings and provides health resources and information throughout the day. In 2014, our parish nurse and volunteers assisted over 500 area residents who took advantage of these services.
NURSING HOME MINISTRY
A dedicated group of parishioners from the EPA visit local nursing homes on the second Sunday of each month and lead residents in Morning Prayer, hymns, and worship.
OASIS WOMEN’S SHELTER
Ongoing collections are held within the EPA to help Oasis replenish and provide supplies needed by the significant number of women and children who walk through their door seeking safety and shelter from abusive situations.
Between March and October, parishioners volunteer their time once a month to pick up trash and litter along a section of a major area thoroughfare adopted by the Episcopal Parish of Alton in support of Pride’s Beautification and Anti-Litter campaign.
RIVERBEND HEADSTART AND FAMILY SERVICES
The EPA has been a longtime partner with this neighboring agency who serves the needs of numerous families and children throughout the Riverbend area through parish volunteer support and by opening its doors throughout the year to provide adequate space for its training programs and events.
SERVING AREA KIDS (SAK)
Alton’s free summer lunch program has had major support from the EPA since its inception three (3) years ago. From lunch preparation to handing out lunches at 8 area parks or cleanup of returned coolers, EPA volunteers can be seen on any given day working throughout the summer in partnership with the Main Street United Methodist Church congregation who sponsors this program. In the fall of 2014, the EPA sponsored a fundraising event and donated the proceeds to help SAK continue to provide over 25,000 lunches during the summer that help feed the growing number of hungry kids in our Alton area.
SUPPORT GROUP PARTNERSHIPS
The Episcopal Parish of Alton has long been a supporter of the mission, message, and members of Alcoholics Anonymous and mental health advocacy groups. Our ongoing partnership with these groups has allowed us the opportunity to share the message of God’s love by offering free use of our facilities for meetings and training to four (4) AA groups who meet at St. Paul’s every week and a mental health group who meets monthly at Trinity Chapel. The EPA is a strong advocate for those seeking to change their lives through these support groups providing financial and volunteer support for special projects as needed.