[Episcopal News Service] All Saints Church in Bay Head, New Jersey, kicked off Advent by taking God, or at least resources to learn about God, outside the doors of their Jersey Shore sanctuary and into a box near a busy footbridge.
“God on the Go,” a faith-formation resources library mounted on a post, grew out of a project that the Rev. Kathryn King began at St. Albans Episcopal Church in northern New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic and brought with her when she became All Saints’ rector in November 2021. King assembles what were known at St. Alban’s as “Faith to Go” bags.
“We’d put everything in from weekly Sunday school stuff to seasonal stuff and we’d also add devotional things for adults and the parish newsletter,” King recalled. People either came by to pick up the materials packaged in gift bags or vestry members delivered them.
“I really believe that one of the primary roles of the faith community is to empower parents to be the primary focus of faith formation,” she said. “We can’t do it in just an hour a week on Sunday morning. It’s helping parents tweak what they already do and claim it for Christ. This project is sort of a natural progression of that.”
King began at Bay Head just before Advent last year and used the Bay Head Business Association’s annual Christmas Walk in early December to invite participants to learn more about All Saints Church and a life of faith. With resources from the St. Nicholas Center, the parish offered activities for children and parents. All Saints offered even more activities during this year’s 41st annual Christmas Walk on Dec. 2. Close to 200 people came through the parish hall.
It wasn’t the first time that King and All Saints have provided faith resources to borough residents and summer visitors. In May King set up a Story Walk on the northwest corner of All Saint’s property. A series of yard signs told children’s stories that changed every few weeks. They focused on such themes as community, creation care, inclusion, self-confidence and love.
Last summer, King wondered out loud during a meeting if All Saints might take better advantage of its location at the east end of a busy footbridge that spans Scow Ditch and connects the borough’s Atlantic beachfront two blocks away with an area of parking, restaurants, shops and a beloved bakery. Vestry member John Copman, who said the bridge has “good foot traffic all year long,” was enthused about King’s hope to make the All Saints’ end of the bridge a place to come to learn about the life of faith.
He volunteered to build the library during the summer and his wife Lori made the sign for the box.
Copman took his inspiration from Little Free Libraries designs, which offer plans from easy to elaborate. The box has a low-slope roof design “because of my limited carpentry skills,” Copman said. The box’s cedar shake siding, he said, was “inspired by the church and I’m hoping eventually they will fade to match what we have on the outside of the building.”
Visitors to the resource library find zip-close bags labeled “households with children” or “adult households.” Each liturgical season will inspire some of what’s in the bags, such as Advent wreath information, a list of Christmas services with a prayer to say while decorating the tree, or Epiphany house blessings. There’s also a welcome note from King and information about All Saints’ programs and how to connect with the church in person or online. People are invited to stop back every four to six weeks for new material.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg retired in July 2019 as senior editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service.