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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: A small church with big and caring heart

Katherine Scoggins • Dec 24, 2017 at 10:30 AM

You’ve probably seen the church in your travels to downtown Kingsport. It is the gray stone church with beautiful landscaping, stained glass windows, and red doors at the “roundabout” on the corner of Ravine and Watauga. A playground is located toward the back of the church - evidence of the St. Paul’s Day School and Kindergarten. Founded in 1916, a sign announces “Open. Caring. Serving. A Parish in the Diocese of East Tennessee.” But don’t be fooled, because this small church does some incredible ministry, both inside and outside its walls.

Let us begin with a popular and timely ministry: St. Paul’s Christmas Dinner. Each year the parish has provided a meal and fellowship to hundreds of people within the community at no cost.

“What began as a dream 15 years ago is now an established part of our parish,” says parishioner Beverly Howard. “On Christmas afternoon, food, fellowship and fun are made available to any and all who wish to join us. In addition to good food, we offer a warm and welcoming experience.”

“Although attendance numbers vary with the weather, it is the individual experience that is at the heart of this ministry. There is ‘room at the inn.’ For many of our parishioners, this has become the way we celebrate Christmas.”

St. Paul’s Food Pantry is also a popular and well-used ministry. Open since 1980, it is one of the oldest church-operated food pantries in Kingsport. It provides food, personal care items, children’s books, school supplies, Thanksgiving food boxes, Angel Tree presents and many other items to those in need in our community. The food pantry is manned by volunteers and its budget is primarily funded by St. Paul’s, with selected donations by Second Harvest, Panera Bread and Kroger. In 2016, the pantry served 2,043 households, 4,846 individuals and 296 new clients. It is open every Wednesday from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Also, every Sunday, parishioners cook and deliver approximately 30 noontime meals to homebound people around the city of Kingsport. More than 300 parishioners give their time and abilities to this ministry which supplements the weekday meals provided through Meals on Wheels of Kingsport.

“Laundry Love” is one of the newer ministries embraced by St. Paul’s. On the last Monday of every month, from 4 to 8 p.m., volunteers gather at the Kingsport Coin Laundry on Center Street. Volunteers provide free help doing laundry, providing quarters, soap and dryer sheets. No one is turned away and there are no income requirements. Laundry Love partners include St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church and Emmaus House E.T.S.U. Campus Ministry.

A very special ministry undertaken by parishioners at St. Paul’s is the Oncology Project. St. Paul “adopts” the patients on W-3 at Wellmont Holston Valley during the month of November, during which volunteers spend time with patients, keep the break room stocked with snacks for patients and their families, visit with the patients, read or pray with them. St. Paul’s was one of the original churches to serve in this capacity, having done so since 2000. St. Paul’s also provides an early Thanksgiving dinner to the patients, their families and staff. St. Paul’s volunteers provide the side dishes to go with the turkeys and hams offered by the church.

In addition to these ministries offered by St. Paul’s, there are also smaller, more personal ministries, grouped under the umbrella: Ministry Teams. These cover a wide assortment of topics: visiting those parishioners who are unable to get out, taking a meal to someone who has had a death in the family, or delivering flowers to someone who is celebrating a birth or adoption. This is one of the ways the church keeps in touch with their longtime (or brand new) parishioners.

Then there's St. Paul’s Day School and Kindergarten, which provides flexible schedules and Christian-based activities for students. Glenna Jones is the director of these programs and is emphatic about the mission: “A child’s work is play! The goals are to promote the social, physical, emotional and cognitive development through a variety of meaningful play opportunities, loving and guiding children as they grow.”

For more information on the children’s programs at St. Paul’s, contact Ms. Jones at glennajones@earthlink.net or call (423) 246-9552. For information about St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, located at 161 East Ravine Road in Kingsport, call (423) 245-5187 or visit stpaulskingsport.dioet.org or find them on Facebook (@stpaulskpt).