What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?…For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. (James 2:14-16, 26)
The good news is that the Allin Church is an example of the works that come from our faith. There are so many of you who, after receiving God’s blessings of grace, peace, and understanding on Sunday morning, share these blessings beyond the walls of this church through service,
This month, we get to hear from church member, Jo-Ann McDonagh.
How long have you been involved with the Allin Church and in what capacity?
I have been coming to Allin Church since 1995, transferring my membership from Roslindale Congregational church to Allin. I taught Sunday school for several years, sang in the choir for several years and served on the Diaconate, Missions, Nominating, and Memorials.
What faith informed work do you do outside of the church? If it is through an organization, what organization? Tell us about this organization.
Mission outreach made a lasting impression on me several years ago when a group from Allin Church went to the Kitty Dukakis Treatment Center in the Shattuck Hospital. The women in that program were there for rehabilitation for drug and alcohol addiction. We brought goodies and had a little party. We also played a game and gave out a few prizes. I made up a treat bag with hygiene products and other goodies for each women. The women were so appreciative and happy that people would actually come and do this for them – such a small gesture for those that were struggling. My older sister Carol, who passed away from cancer 3 years ago taught me how to knit, crochet and sew when I was a teenager. I love to make hats, scarves, small blankets and fleece hoodies for the places I serve. One of the places is Disabled and Limbless Veterans. Some of these veterans are homeless. They appreciate anything – something to keep them warm during cold weather or a bag filled with hygiene products. I recently started to collect Halloween candy that people have left over and make up snack bags. I have been told that they love to get these. I’ve decided to collect the candy all year, along with hotel size toiletries. Those two boxes are in the Fireside Room.
Generic Ministry is an all volunteer organization that works out of Needham. Their fully packed van goes into the Boston Common on Tuesday evening and to Kenmore Square on Wednesday evening. They hand out clothing, shoes, hygiene products to homeless people. Different groups make sandwiches which are also passed out. These homeless people request certain hygiene products at the van so I don’t put those in bags. If there are items in the bag that they don’t want, they throw them away.
What is your favorite part of the work you do? What is the hardest part?
My favorite part is giving some small gesture of help to someone who is struggling in a big way. I can put their struggle in the back of my mind temporarily but their struggle continues. The hardest part is knowing that their struggle is ongoing. Hopefully, in some cases it might give them a little hope.
What of your faith (scripture, practice, prayer, church, etc) informs the work you do? What is the passion that makes this work important to you?
I have been blessed with so much. My husband and I share a very comfortable home – warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Often, when it’s snowing and cold outside, my husband will say “I hope no-one is sleeping out tonight” and my answer is “Peter, you know many are sleeping out”. Actually, I feel honored to serve.
My thoughts on Jo-Ann’s faith and practice:
From the moment I met Jo-Ann a decade ago I knew the lens she viewed the world through was different from most. Jo-Ann practices her faith in a way that never uses a word but always expresses love in very Jesus-like ways. Jesus never gave us a list of rules to follow nor did he go around holding the words of the law up against others. He just gently did ministry – feeding the hungry, pouring water for the thirst, accepting, accompanying, embracing. This is how I’ve always known Jo-Ann and her particular ministry. She is constantly using the gifts with which God birthed her to brighten the lives of another. She puts love in all of her creations and, while she might not ever see the individual who received her prayer shawl, pillow case, hospital goodie bags, or candy, she has shared the divine within her – exactly how Jesus calls us to be his followers. A short personal story… A few weeks ago, Jo-Ann handed me 2 tiny pillows with a velcro strap on one side. When I looked at her with question she explained they are seatbelt pillows for Gabe’s port (a device under the skin of Gabe’s chest for infusions.) I was amazed and brought it home though forgot immediately to show Gabe what Jo-Ann had made for him. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was an issue and Gabe had never complained. A couple of days later Gabe notice the pillow in his medicine basket and asked what it was. “It’s a port pillow for when we’re driving. You know, so the seatbelt doesn’t press on your port.”
Gabe’s face lit up. Since then, every time we are getting in the car he remembers the pillow, grabbing it from the basket, using it gratefully.
Jo-Ann knows (more than so many of us) that it’s the little things that bring love into a person’s life. I’m grateful for the generosity with which she shares her talents and gifts and the faith with which she does it.
PS.. If YOU are involved in an organization or charity – or maybe you volunteer your time around town and would like to share with us this great work, I’d love to hear about it! firstname.lastname@example.org