On the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (Sunday, September 8th), I made this announcement at St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church:
Brothers & Sisters in Christ
Our Teen SOYO will kick-off what, I pray, will become a consistent Orthodox presence in the East End of Newport News. On Saturday, September 21st, we will participate in a park & shoreline clean-up at King-Lincoln Park on Sixth Street & Jefferson Avenue. We will begin at 9:30 am with Third Hour Prayers and collect litter in the park and along Pinkett’s Beach. Following the clean-up, I will give a demonstration of netting techniques to collect aquatic life such as fish and crabs. We will identify these creatures, discuss their role in the ecosystem and release them. The outing should be finished around noon with a brief Sixth Hour Prayer.
God willing, this event will be the begining of the Ammah Sarah Chesapeake Bay Outreach. St. Sarah of the Nile was an Egyptian Abbess with some of her lessons mentioned in the Matericon and Sayings of the Desert Fathers. This ministry will work with the Newport News Parks & Recreation Department, Virginia State Parks and other organizations to provide aquatic and wildlife mapping programs for communties that lack outdoor education opportunities and maintain the health of the small shoreline. As well, we will provide and partner with other churches to help meet the basic needs of people in the area.
God willing, we will return to the park on October 19th and November 16th (the third Saturday of the month). I welcome input and helping hands from others in the church, especially your prayers.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Deacon John Gresham
And so, another page begins. The Ammah Sarah CBO seems to be starting off quite well. For one thing, the main organization that will benefit from it, the Newport News Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department, has welcomed the plan with open arms. I had knocked on the doors of several agencies in the Williamsburg area and only got as far as two “one and off” programs in two years. I will still leave a door open to anyone who wants to work with me on my original plan in this area. But, I have an open door in front of me and will make the most of it.
Secondly, I have the support of my parish. Trying to get anyone to come to York River or any other natural area in my neck of the woods is a bit much. Having to drive all the way to the very end of Newport News is a hassle. But, it’s only once a month. I’d rather do that and have people at my side than to be ignored in my own back yard. I am more than surprised at the enthusiasm I have gained not only from my teens. The young adults also love the idea and want to help. Cool.
Even without giving away food or clothing (which I still wish to do either on our own or with a partner church), I am highly optimistic about how this will go over with the public when we open it up to others in October. Using this month as a dry run will give us time to figure out what may work best. I want to practice using a cast net ahead of time. NNPR&T asked me about promoting the event next month if all goes well. So, that will be one less thing I have to be concerned about.
More than having ample preparation and practice time is that we will be providing a humble service to the community as well as share a knowledge and appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem to people who rarely get such opportunities. I love working with the kids and adults who come to York River and am grateful that they choose to visit the park. So many people don’t get the chance to catch grass shrimp in a dip net or learn the different species of waterfowl. King-Lincoln Park (and nearby Anderson Beach & Park) are accessable to some of the the most marginalized people in the city. Shame on me if I don’t try to bring my talents and training there, especially since I am welcomed and have support.
Ammah Sarah, pray with me that I will serve the Lord in His way for His glory.