Over the past several years, we as a congregation have had to re-evaluate our ministries and how we connect with and serve our community. We have added and changed programs and events to work toward becoming the church we believe God is calling us to be. It’s been a difficult but important task, and we have only been able to do it with the support of our members and community partners, knowing that the Spirit is leading us to “love our neighbors” in new ways.
In the spring of 2020, when the pandemic began, so many of our ministries had to stop in the interest of safety, including in-person worship, Sunday school, and committee meetings, to name just a few. Another ministry that was affected was our Thrift Shop, which has been an important part of AHCC for decades. For many months, we stopped operations altogether to ensure we were protecting our neighbors and volunteers through an unprecedented and difficult time.
In January 2021, we began holding monthly “pop-up” thrift shops in the parking lot during the Community Meal, in an effort to continue serving our neighbors. At the same time, the newly assembled Thrift Shop Task Force took on the job of looking at how the Thrift Shop might be modified to operate in the new world we were living in. Over six months, the task force met and discussed how to respond to the pandemic, to changes in the neighborhood, and to available resources both human and monetary. At the end of their work, the task force presented a report to the Diaconate which included suggestions on how to move forward, and the formation of an ongoing Thrift Shop Advisory Committee to provide insight and support for the next phase. Led by myself and Africka Hinds, this team included AHCC members Dean Amadon, Lila Pierce, Sally Tresselt, and Karen Hewes, and worked closely with Moderator Tory Chavey, and Helena Carvalho, Director of Operations. Since the summer of 2021, the advisory committee has met regularly to discuss new possibilities for the Thrift Shop, including how to respond to a flood in the basement, locating temporary storage for Thrift Shop inventory, and looking into off-site locations. The ongoing repair and construction in the basement made it clear that the original location of the Thrift Shop would remain unusable for the foreseeable future. After exploring the idea of moving the operations of the Thrift Shop offsite and researching what that might involve, the advisory committee concluded that it would be both too costly and logistically difficult. Additionally, we recognized that the monthly Pop Up shops in the parking lot are incredibly labor intensive and not financially sustainable.
At the same time as the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee’s work was performed, the AHCC Roadmap 2024 was created and presented to the congregation, and the Neighborhood Vision Task Force completed their work of connecting with and listening to our neighbors to learn how we might better work together to improve Asylum Hill for all. The Thrift Shop Advisory Committee, taking into account the aspirations and goals of AHCC Roadmap 2024, the report from the Neighborhood Vision Task Force, and the desire to work in partnership with these guides and initiatives, presented its recommendations to the Diaconate at its April meeting.
We believe that in order to best serve our neighbors, we need to be intentional about how we move forward and take the time to reimagine the Thrift Shop ministry. It is the recommendation of the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee that the Thrift Shop stop its operations in their current form as of June 2022. For the immediate future, this means we will no longer be accepting donations of items for the Thrift Shop and will hold more frequent Pop Up Shops in the parking lot to ensure we can distribute all the inventory currently on hand. Further, the Thrift Shop Advisory Committee suggests we continue to serve our neighbors by holding seasonal clothing events, such as a school uniform drive in August and a coat drive in the late fall/early winter, etc. We see these changes as a necessary and vital shift in ministry that balances the needs of the neighborhood and the limits of resources.
At the same time, it is important that we celebrate the many people who have made the Thrift Shop such a wonderful ministry over the years, including the incredibly dedicated volunteers who spent countless hours sorting, cleaning, and displaying items, and our current Thrift Shop Coordinator, Sue Powell. We are so grateful to these wonderful individuals who have given their time and hearts in support of the Thrift Shop as well as to everyone who has donated items to this ministry. We pray that over the next several years, as we reimagine our mission, you will continue to support whatever direction we take as we find new ways to love our neighbors.
These are important and transformative times we are living in. We have always been a congregation that believes our mission is to “love God and love our neighbor” through the many ways we serve our world. While this is a change to the way we exist in the neighborhood, I believe it will allow us to step back and listen to where the Spirit is leading us so that we can continue the legacy of service and justice that is a hallmark of Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Thank you for your continued support and partnership as we look toward the future to find the ways we can love our neighbors in this new world.
In love and grace,
Pastor Jordan Rebholz