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Renton opens doors to clothing bank for refugees

Aware that the United Christian Church in Renton was not yet using its sanctuary for worship, a volunteer organizer with SCM Missions in Seattle asked to use the space short term to provide resources for Afghani refugees.

Volunteers set up clothing bank for Afghan refugees and others.  Photo courtesy of Cynthia Meyer

“As Afghanis began to settle in the area, their needs have been great,” said Cynthia Meyer, the pastor.

“In one day organizers and volunteers set up all our tables and unpacked bags and boxes of donated clothing. The next day a clothing bank was up and running, with families and individuals eagerly choosing general clothing, coats and boots for our area’s weather, and some toys and books for children. They also received hygiene and household cleaning items.”

The clothing bank was open to clients two days a week for four to five hours a day. For safety, all were masked and an outside door remained open. They also limited the number of people in the building.

The onsite manager from the Muslim Community Resource Center, a program of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), assisted and translated for clients choosing items and managed at least 50 volunteers from many organizations across the area.

Church members also donated items for the event.

With one day for moving in and one for moving out, the clothing bank was open for nine days over five weeks.

It served 93 families, nearly half of whom were newly arrived Afghan refugees. Others were refugee and low-income people from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Burma, India and Uganda.

“What a gift to welcome neighbors from around the world through our doors,” Cynthia said. “We connected with leaders at SCM Medical Missions and the Muslim Community Center.

SCM Medical Missions usually helps refugees in Jordan and resettled in Washington State. Its focus is to provide aid to refugees in and people of Lebanon, who are suffering a major economic crisis.

They also assist newly arrived Afghan refugees, many of whom are falling through cracks. If they are not registered with a federal resettlement agency, they need assistance with rent and groceries.

MAPS Muslim Community Resource Center is a social and humanitarian service organization helping less fortunate people, partnering with Muslim and non-Muslim nonprofits, city and local services, assistance providers to serve those in need with food, a health clinic, legal clinic, emergency relief, counseling, housing and refugee services.

“We will continue to support these efforts as we are able, with donations. I hope that in the future we can interact in more personal ways and get to know one another,” Cynthia said.“We look forward to continuing to support this effort, which has moved to a new longer term location nearby.

“We are just returning to in-person gatherings and appreciate that our sanctuary has new stories to tell as we gather again in worship and in preparation for service, justice and love of our neighbors,” she said.

Another event at from United Christian Church opening its doors on the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday, Nov. 20, to offer a service of remembrance, livestreamed on Facebook, in cooperation with the LGBTQIA+ Community of Renton.

Several leaders offered prayers and readings and the names of transgender persons whose lives were lost to violence in the past year, while a candle was lit for each and one for those unknown.

For that service, the church also offered resources from open and affirming organizations of the UCC and DOC.

During COVID, United Christian has prioritized safety for the most vulnerable in their community and congregation.

“Therefore we have gathered for worship online throughout the pandemic. Sundays, we gather on Facebook for a live streamed service, including scripture, message and prayers, and sometimes a more complete service including communion,” said Cynthia.

This is followed by a Zoom gathering where prayer concerns are shared and a pastoral prayer offered.

“We unmute and everyone shares the Lord’s Prayer in their preferred version. It’s a joyful noise,” she said.

The choir records hymns and anthems, which are shared during Zoom.

Face-to-face on Zoom, the congregation celebrates communion every Sunday, a tradition of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

On two Sundays in December Cynthia said they are offering worship in the sanctuary and live streamed. Christmas Eve will include an in-person afternoon service and a Zoom only service in the evening.

“We are still working out what will be feasible for in-person and online worship as we move into the new year,” she said.

Cynthia shared highlights of church life during COVID.

For Drive-In / Drop-Off events, folks bring donations for the church’s Little Free Pantry and Library, and for community ministries.

They received bags of items appropriate to the season, to support worship and devotions, and for fun.

As Christmas drew near in 2020, the choir recorded a CD of sacred and secular Christmas music.

Members also created a Christmas tree ornament featuring the church’s “God’s Doors Are Open to All” display.”

Cynthia said a mid-week Zoom social hour helps many stay connected.

An AA Group has returned to meet in the sanctuary.

For information, call 206-501-0053.


Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News © Winter 2021-22


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