Photo courtesy Magnolia United Church of Christ: Magnolia United Church of Christ Pastor Marci Scott-Weis stands next to a load of food collected during a food drive to benefit the Ballard Food Bank earlier this spring. MUCC and other churches have been reaching out to different organizations during the pandemic to see how they can be helped.
Photo courtesy Magnolia United Church of Christ: Magnolia United Church of Christ Pastor Marci Scott-Weis stands next to a load of food collected during a food drive to benefit the Ballard Food Bank earlier this spring. MUCC and other churches have been reaching out to different organizations during the pandemic to see how they can be helped.

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories about what different churches in the area are doing to stay serve their congregations and  communities during the pandemic.

While the COVID-19 outbreak closed down churches in local communities, churches in Queen Anne and Magnolia have not let the coronavirus pandemic keep them from serving people in need.

In addition to serving their own parishioners, pastors at Magnolia United Church of Christ and Queen Anne Lutheran Church have enlisted their congregations to benefit struggling communities.

Magnolia United Church of Christ Pastor Marci Scott-Weis said her congregation has a “very active and benevolent focus toward outward giving.”

“So we’re trying to do a combination of supporting all of our members but also finding a way to support all of our vulnerable neighbors,” Scott-Weis said.

Recently, MUCC has hosted a series of fundraisers that benefited different organizations in a “Help Us Help Our Community” campaign. For one, MUCC and the greater community collected and delivered over 1,500 pounds of food for the Ballard Food Bank. Scott-Weis also contacted leadership at Compass Housing, which provides transitional housing and other services for people coming out of homelessness, and the congregation collected things like puzzles, adult coloring books, cards and craft supplies to help keep residents entertained during the quarantine. Lastly, MUCC members conducted a big gardening drive and collected a season’s worth of plant starts, garden tools and soil that went to Interbay Village.

The church has just made it a focus to have open doors and being in the community.

“It’s important for us to be in the community, helping our neighbors,” Scott-Weis said.

Likewise, Queen Anne Lutheran Church Pastor Dan Peterson said when it became clear how severely impacted nonprofits and vulnerable communities could be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, he reached out to two nonprofits the church regularly works with to see how the congregation could help.

Peterson said he reached out to Queen Anne Helpline, which the church has supported directly for many years, and held a “low key food drive” benefitting the organization.

The church’s mission, Peterson added, is proclaiming God’s love in Christ for every person, so the church supports organizations that serve a diverse population.

Peterson said he also spoke with the director of New Horizons Ministry, an LGBTQ+-friendly outreach service and shelter for teens experiencing homelessness in Belltown.

Queen Anne Lutheran has been working with New Horizons over the last year raising money for the organization.

Peterson said he was told by the director, the organization needed good quality, reusable water bottles that were compatible with the shelter’s water system to be distributed to the teens. With restaurants and businesses closed, New Horizons wanted to eliminate teens’ search for fresh water to drink during the day, Peterson said.

“I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be on the streets, let alone on the streets during this pandemic,” he said.

The Queen Anne Lutheran congregation raised enough money for New Horizons to purchase 50 of the water bottles, with extra money left over to go to additional needs.

“So we feel really good about that, and I’m really proud of my congregation,” Peterson said.

While it is not unusual for churches to try to aid the communities they serve during times of need, Scott-Weis said the Magnolia community has been generous and thoughtful during this time.

After the shelter-in-place order went into effect, Scott-Weis said many people stepped forward and asked how they could help. Neighbors also reached out to the church asking if they could deliver groceries to people who couldn’t leave their houses.

“I think as time goes on, that’s going to be really critical, unfortunately,” she said. “I think we’re in it for the long haul.

“I think we’re going to have to find ways to support those [vulnerable] individuals,” she added.

To continue in its efforts, MUCC has planned a community-wide towel drive to benefit Compass Housing Alliance. MUCC will collect new and gently used towels and unopened personal care supplies of shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, soap and deodorant people can drop off from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 28th. Donations can be dropped off outside the church, 3555 W. McGraw St. in Magnolia.

Even though Scott-Weis expects such efforts to become the “new normal,” she does not think that’s a bad thing, necessarily.

“I don’t like to say that there’s a gift from the pandemic, but I think that there are things from the pandemic that could be a gift, and that is the emerging sense of how critical the community and neighbors are, and that’s a beautiful thing, and I hope that doesn’t go away,” Scott-Weis said.