'This is our life vocation'

Church members reach out to local, international communities

If you go

What: Victorian tea and fair trade sale

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace, 657 Green St.

Cost: $5 (limited number of tickets sold at the door)

This weekend, Penny Krump will be concerned with selling, not buying, gifts.

Not just any gifts - only those she knows can fetch a fair price for the people who made them.

As a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace, which hosts an annual fair trade sale and Victorian tea, Krump is concerned about giving back to local and international communities.

She's not alone. She and church members like her make a point of supporting charitable organizations during the holiday season.

For these individuals, acts of charity aren't isolated activities - they're a way of life.

"This is what we're called to do," Faith Lutheran Church pastor John Turner said. "This is our life vocation."

Every year, Faith Lutheran collects nonperishable items for local food banks. The church also sends funds to its synod, or national body, which then sends the money to organizations in need.

Giving to someone in need "is simply a part of life," Turner said.

For some, such as Krump, charity takes on an international perspective.

In a church outreach group, she and other congregation members look for opportunities to meet needs in local and global communities.

As part of this program, the church will host a free trade sale, featuring items such as coffee, tea and chocolate, which are bought directly from cooperatives and farmers at a fair price.

The church will donate sale proceeds to local and national organizations: The InterFaith Food Bank, the Lutheran World Relief Fund and the Episcopalian Relief and Development Fund.

Because the two churches collaborate often and share the same building, proceeds from the sale will be divided between the Episcopalian and Lutheran organizations, Krump said.

For Krump, charitable actions are part of the church's mission.

"I think the church should be outward, not inward," she said.

They also are an expression of gratitude.

"It's about giving back," she said. "We feel like we're so blessed."

The Victorian tea, held concurrently with the fair trade sale, gathers funds for the same organizations as the sale.

The event "gives us a chance to think how fortunate we all are," said Susan Aiken, a congregant at St. Mark's Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church of Grace.

The church's role to meet community needs shouldn't change with the holidays, Calvary Baptist Church pastor Rod Compton said.

Still, various factors - including higher heating bills and the financial strain of the Christmas season - sometimes cause unmet needs to increase, he added.

"There's a lot of hurting folks out there," Compton said. "It seems like during the winter there's even more."

The church receives requests daily from individuals in need of clothes, food and money to pay bills and rent. To meet some of the needs people bring to the church, congregation members contribute to the food pantry accessed through Love INC, a local non-profit organization.

The church also donates gifts to residents at Sandrocks Ridge Care and Rehab.

People in need come to the church because they don't know where else to go, Compton said.

"Hopefully they believe the church will help," he added.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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