GLEN RIDGE, NJ — Christ Episcopal Church in Glen Ridge has embarked on a novel way for a house of worship to fulfill its mission of giving back to the community: the Epiphany Project. On Jan. 5, the Epiphany Sunday, checks for $200 were distributed to congregants who had pledged an annual donation, or tithe, to the church. According to the Rev. Diana Wilcox, donations ranged from 10 cents to several thousand dollars and were collected from 43 individuals. She discussed the Epiphany Project this past Sunday at the church following Mass.
“Every year, the church gives to those in need,” she said. “The vestry decides where it will go. But this year we divided the money up. It didn’t matter to what charity it was pledged.”
Wilcox said funds for the checks were from a portion of the church budget set aside for charitable giving. She decided to have her congregation distribute the money after reading an article in The Washington Post about a congregation in the D.C. area, where she is from, doing something similar.
“The Epiphany is all about seeing Christ in the world,” she said, “and the Epiphany is the day gifts were given to the Christ child.”
Wilcox will be contributing her $200 to those suffering from the wildfires in Australia.
Following Mass this past Sunday, a number of congregants spoke about their donation. Betty Kish said she and her partner, Ann Watson, along with Nadine Sempier, donated to the Heifer Foundation, an organization that purchases farm animals for farmers in third-world countries.
“You can donate the money to buy an animal so a family becomes self-sufficient,” Kish said. ‘You can purchase goats, sheep, chickens, alpacas for various countries. I picked a flock of chickens, a sheep and money toward a heifer.”
Betty Yarborough lost her check.
“When they gave it to me, I must have put it in my church program,” she said. “I thought I had the program in my pocketbook, but I didn’t. I called the church, but nobody had turned it in. I was upset all week.”
When Yarborough finally explained her situation to Wilcox, she was told that her original check would be voided and another one made out for her.
“I’m going to donate mine to the homeless,” Yarborough said. “I was out in California and I saw people living in tents in the streets. I grew up poor and I don’t forget it.”
Christopher Dwyer said he and his wife have not decided yet what to do with the check.
“I’m thinking a smaller, local group,” he said. “They do work on a lot smaller scale and $200 can make a lot of difference with them. But my wife wants to do something international. She’s thinking — let me add this to what a lot of people are doing.”
Faith Salaach is dividing her check. She will give $100 to breast and prostate cancer research.
“I work for a urologist,” she said.
The remaining $100 will be split between veterans and the Rescue Mission in Newark, which feeds the homeless. Salaach’s daughter, Nadine Gaita, 14, also received a $200 check.
“She wants to do something for children,” Salaach said. “She wants to give some to the Heifer Foundation, St. Jude’s, the Ronald McDonald House and UNICEF. I come from Kenya. The children there don’t have what they have here.”
Richard Lamb said he was contributing to the Federation of the Blind, the largest organization led by blind people in the United States, because two fellow congregants at Christ Episcopal, a married couple, are visually impared. The husband, he said, is totally blind, and the wife is 90-percent blind.
“I’m very close to them,” he said. “Also I know the federation can use the money. They bend over backwards to help their people.”
Lamb said the husband teaches alternative computer keyboarding to visually impaired individuals.
“I have empathy for them,” he said.
Wilcox said that those receiving a check will gather and talk about their experiences after Mass on Feb. 23, the Sunday concluding the Epiphany season before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26.
“We’ll talk in small groups and discuss how it was to extend that gift to people in need,” she said. “I think it will be a wonderful discussion.”