St. Lukes, MHA Dog Treat Program Expands Nationwide

As printed in the Post-Journal on 10/11/21

Dogs across the nation are now enjoying a locally made treat thanks to a partnership between the Mental Health Association and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown.

Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits is a program facilitated by both organizations to create handmade dog treats, but also provide workforce development to those who have dropped out of the workforce due to mental health issues and/or addiction. The program is four to six weeks long that allows participants to bake, package and fulfill orders of the biscuits, while also learning “soft skills” such as workplace hygiene and dress, personal finance, workplace ethics and others.

The Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church said the program recently shipped biscuits to churches across the country in time for the annual St. Francis Blessing of the Animals.

“We’re creating kind of a socially conscious enterprise that is really not designed to make a profit, but it was designed for two particular audiences: one is conscientious consumers looking for ways to make the kind of world they want with their dollars, and then also for folks who are on the other end and perhaps have fallen out of the workforce due to internal or external barriers, whether that’s chaotic drug usage or mental health,” Fodor said. “In the recovery world, we often say that connection is the opposite of addiction – making people be part of a bigger system is what helps them find meaning and purpose in the world.”

Fodor said the mascot, Father Bernard, was chosen on purpose, due to the sense of healing that is associated with St. Bernards. However, while St. Bernards of old were often pictured with barrels of brandy under their chin, Father Bernard wears a clerical collar.

“The idea is also that we can provide a blessing by simply doing a good piece of work,” he said. “Judaism calls it a mitzvah. In this case, it’s a blessed biscuit.”

Fodor said many churches have an annual St. Francis’ Blessing of Pets, which he thought would be perfect to send free biscuits to churches across the country as a “blessing” for other churches and members in their communities.

The Rev. Tara Eastman of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool, N.Y., was formerly pastor of The Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Jamestown and partook of the blessed biscuit giveaway with her congregation.

“When sharing Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits with our four footed canine friends I told people how this biscuit recipe is a means of healing and connection for people in recovery- as well as those who walk with and love them,” Eastman said. “Talk about a way for one blessing to lead to many blessings. I think St. Francis would be honored with this work.”

The Rev. Michael Way, Christ Episcopal Church, Middletown, N.J., also participated in the program’s biscuit blessing.

“I was so excited to learn about the mission behind Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits,” Way said. “As a priest, an animal lover and leader of a parish that is committed to ministering to those suffering from addictions (and to those who support them), an enterprise like FBBB demonstrates how we can be joyful and creative in our efforts to build community, care for the planet and provide practical help to those in recovery from addiction.”

Other churches that received the biscuits included St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wasilla, AK; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Cheyenne, WY; Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown, TX; St. Martins in the Fields, North Richland Hills, TX; St. Luke’s Evanston, Evanston, IL; St. Philip’s Church, Rochester, MI; Grace Episcopal Church, Anniston, AL; St. Albans, Chattanooga, TN; St. Michael and All Angels, Sanibel, FL; All Souls Episcopal Church, Miami, FL; St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, FL; St. Luke’s, Salisbury, NC; St. Paul’s, Hanover VA; St. Andrew’s, Norfolk VA; St. John’s Richmond. Richmond VA; Trinity Episcopal Church, Fredricksburg VA; St. Mark’s Erie, PA; St. Paul’s Cathedral, Erie PA; St. Stephen’s, Fairview PA; St. Paul’s, Rochester NY; St. Matthias, East Aurora NY; King of Kings Lutheran, Liverpool NY; St. Andrew’s Yaphank, NY; St. John’s, Cold Spring Harbor, NY; St, James Episcopal Church, Brookhaven NY; Christ Church Middletown NJ; and Grace Episcopal Church, Newton MA.

For more information on the program or to order biscuits online, visit www.fatherbernards.com and www.Facebook.com/FatherBernards. Biscuits can also be purchased on any Sunday at St. Luke’s, which is located at 410 N Main St, Jamestown, NY 14701.

St. Luke’s To Host Service For Health Care Workers

Printed in the Post-Journal on 10/11/21

To ensure that people will continue to appreciate the role health care workers are playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown will be hosting a celebration for medical personnel.

The special service will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 17.

“At St. Luke’s we are committed to loving our neighbors by protecting our public health,” said the Rev. Luke Fodor. “In partnership with Rite Aid, we recently hosted a free Flu Clinic right during our Sunday morning services. Since St. Luke is the patron saint of healing and physicians, we decided to host a special Service for Healthcare Workers on this year’s feast day of St. Luke, which the church celebrates on Oct. 18 each year.”

Nurse practitioner Elizabeth Gattman will be the guest preacher during the celebration, offering prayers for community health care workers.

“I think now everyone is tired, jaded and a bit demoralized,” Gattman said. “As new data came in and recommendations changed based on this, the changes were seen as weaknesses or lack of knowledge, rather than evidence-based practice. Then comes people’s own experiences or anecdotal evidence, which seems to contradict what the science is saying. All of this is combined in the general community with a ‘lack of faith’ in medical/science community. Suddenly even though I’ve gone to seven years of college to study this, and the who people come to me, trusting me with their health, struggle to trust or believe what I say about epidemiology, covid or vaccines.”

Community members are welcome to submit the names of health care workers they would like to have prayed for by name. To have yourself or a loved one included on this list, contact the church office at 483-6405 or stlukes@stlukesjamestown.org.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church is located at 410 N. Main St., on the corner of Fourth and Main streets in Jamestown.

Repairs To St. Luke’s Bell Tower To Start Next Spring

As printed in the Post-Journal on 10/4/21

Water damage due to the original design and construction of the 1894 structure will lead St. Luke’s Episcopal Church officials to fund a $900,000 project to fix the top two levels of its bell tower.

Last week, Barbara Campagna of BAC A+P architectural firm and Jenna Bresler of Silman structural engineers presented a presentation via Zoom on the repairs needed to the church’s bell tower.

Bresler said because of the water damage occurring for more than 100 years, separation between brick and the Medina sandstone — in some areas as much as 4 inches — has created voids in the structure that need to be repaired.

Campagna said the “safe hazard work” needs to be done to prevent the structure from starting to deteriorate to the point where parts of the structure might start falling off. She said based on visual examination done last spring by structural engineers, it doesn’t appear that any stones are in any imminent danger of falling.

“We don’t know when the tipping point might be, which you don’t ever want to have,” she said.

Campagna said a lot of the water damage done to the Jamestown church is based on the original design and construction of the church and doesn’t directly deal with the tower being struck by lightning in 2013. Bresler said the restoration plan is to disassemble parts of the Medina sandstone and rebuild the stone and clean up the mortar.

The presentation also discussed the damage that has been done to the porch, staircase, ramp and roofing and interior plaster, which also needs to be repaired. However, Campagna said due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the supply chain, they’re unsure how long it would take to get all of the supplies needed to renovate the whole church. She said the plan is to do Phase 1-A repairs to fix the top of the bell towers. She added the project estimate to do the work would be around $900,000.

Campagna said the next step is to meet with New York State Historic Preservation Office officials to gain approval for the renovation plans, which is needed because the church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because it’s located inside the Downtown Jamestown Historic District. After they receive state official’s approval, she said the project will go out to bid, with plans to possibly start renovation work in the spring of 2022.

The Rev. Luke Fodor, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church pastor, said because St. Luke’s has received a couple of state grants and through fundraising, church officials have $700,000 for the project. He said if the funding gap is closed the church can use its endowment to fund the project.

“I believe God is good and we will find other ways to get there,” he said.

Campagna said the complete cost to fund the whole renovation project for the church will cost around $2 million. She said the other areas can wait to be repaired because they aren’t a public safety concern.

Other agencies involved in the project include the associate architect firm is Watts Architecture & Engineering of Buffalo, geotechnical consultant Barron and Associates of Clarence and architectural conservator is Jablonski Building Conservation of New York City.

MHA/St. Luke’s Art of Recovery Exhibit is Well Received

As printed in the Post-Journal on 9/16/21

Twenty-two pieces of art were on display at the recent Art of Recovery Exhibit presented by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County (MHA).

The event was held in St. Luke’s undercroft in downtown Jamestown on Aug. 28 to raise awareness for International Overdose Awareness Day, Aug. 31.

The local artists who shared how they celebrate their own creativity and recovery included Carriee Clark, Nicole Crawford, Roseann Crocker, Lindsey Erickson, Melita Lyon, Joanne Porterfield, and Joseph Scoma. Mayor Eddie Sundquist was among the more than 60 people who attended the show. Light refreshments and “mocktails” (non-alcoholic cocktails) were served.

The show was coordinated by Sean Jones of the MHA and Jessica Frederick of St. Luke’s. They were also responsible for the art installation of ribbons in the church sanctuary that represented the people in recovery, ones still using substances, and those who passed over the past year from an overdose.

This Art of Recovery event developed while St. Luke’s and the MHA were preparing to observe their second annual Recovery Sunday on August 29. Because art and spirituality can go hand-in-hand — as both create space for transcendence, creativity, self-reflection, and community building — it seemed appropriate to add an art exhibit to the weekend’s events.

Steven Cobb, MHA executive director, delivered the sermon at St. Luke’s on August 29. The service honored all those who lost their lives to drug overdose in Chautauqua County over this past year by lighting candles and tolling bells while reading their names.

The art remained available for viewing before and after the service.

Following the service, MHA staff led a NARCAN training. Narcan is the brand name for naloxone, a safe, easily administered medication that has saved hundreds of lives in Chautauqua County from possible opioid overdose. Narcan can be obtained free from the MHA.

With programs in both Jamestown and Dunkirk, the Mental Health Association in Chautauqua County is a peer recovery center offering support groups and individual coaching for people looking to improve their lives, deepen wellness, thrive in recovery, or support those on a recovery path. Peers use their personal stories to help people find recovery in their own lives in their own way.

All Mental Health Association services are free.

To learn more about the Mental Health Association, call 661-9044 or visit MHAChautauqua.org or Facebook.com/MHAChautauqua.

St. Francis Blessing of the Animals

Sunday, October 3 @ 4pm

Please mark your calendar, tell your friends and grab your leashes, tanks and cages… St. Luke’s Episcopal Church will be having our annual St. Francis Day Blessing of the Animals on Sunday, October 3th at 4pm.
We will have a brief service of blessing with doggie treats for the dogs (Provided by Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits) and communion for their human companions. If your animals do not travel well, feel free to bring a picture or a stuffed animal representation and we’ll make the blessing ‘transferable.’ We’ll also livestream the event, too.

Western New York church partners with farmers market for food ministry

As printed in Episcopal News Service on 4/28/21

St. Luke’s Church in Jamestown, New York, is not just trying to change the way the city eats, it’s trying to change the way it thinks about food.

Led by its rector, the Rev. Luke Fodor, whose passion for fresh vegetables is such that people send him produce-themed birthday cards, the parish has donated money, space, time and energy to several interconnected fresh food initiatives aimed at helping local residents eat a better diet and helping local farmers to earn a better living.

“When you model things like healthy eating and healthy living, people see that they can do it,” Fodor says. “It’s kind of a slow build, but we are beginning to see it take root and grow.”

“Pun intended,” he adds.

At the core of this effort is the Jamestown Public Market, which operates not only a weekly Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from June 12 to late October, but also a Mobile Market that brings low-cost, fresh, locally-grown produce to people in low income neighborhoods each Wednesday during the market season.

This year, for the first time, St. Luke’s and the market are also collaborating on a 16-week Community-Supported Agriculture arrangement, commonly known as a CSA, through which participants subscribe to the weekly harvest of a group of local farms. A portion of the proceeds from the Eat Fresh, Do Good CSA will help to fund the mobile market.

We are happy to be at St. Luke’s,” says Linnea Carlson, who has rejuvenated the Public Market since being named director in 2018. “What the church brings that a traditional nonprofit structure may lack is that sense of connected community.”

The partnership between the church and the market was born of necessity. In 2019 the market lost its major funder, and St. Luke’s stepped into the breach, offering office space and agreeing to act as the market’s fiscal agent. In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the market had its best year yet.

“When I first pitched the idea [to the parish], the response was, ‘Of course, this is what we do,” Fodor says. “We help broker relationships. We partner. We don’t have to do all the work, but we use our facility and our ability to broker things.”

But St. Luke’s commitment has been far from simply administrative. Jessica Frederick, the church’s minister for children, youth and family ministry, a former farmer who once managed her own CSA, has stepped in to lead the Eat Fresh, Do Good project.

“It was my favorite part of farming,” says Frederick, a student in the low residency program at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, who has also donated a refrigerated trailer that serves as a walk-in cooler on wheels to the Mobile Market for pick-ups and deliveries. “I loved talking to people about how to use kale and about the agricultural seasons. I loved all that. I am thrilled to be bringing that past experience into this context.”

She has brought the young people of the parish along with her. This season, the church’s youth group will help sort and package the vegetables that are collected on Wednesday morning at local farms to be sold at reduced prices through the Mobile Market and distributed through the CSA. Young people from the St. Luke’s-First Presbyterian Youth Group also sponsor the Sprouts Tent, an outpost of children’s activities at the Saturday Farmers’ Market, and a recent confirmation class participated in the Public Market’s Grow Jamestown project, planting and tending garlic in several community gardens around town.

St. Luke’s and the Public Market also collaborated with the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation on a recent workshop, streamed on Facebook, that instructed participants on how to use the Public Market as a business incubator.

“The work goes above and beyond talk,” Fodor says. “It’s in the doing. Taking part in the market has become part of theological education at St. Luke’s, and that’s true from the pulpit to adult formation to faith formation for our young people.”

The need for a change in what Fodor refers to as the local “food culture” is evident.  Jamestown is the largest city in Chautauqua County, which ranks near the top of New York’s 62 counties in the percentage of residents with diet-related health concerns such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Although there are farms throughout the region, fresh food is difficult to purchase for many city residents, especially the 16 percent who do not own a car. Local farmers could help to supply this need, but they face significant challenges in finding a market for their harvests in a food system dominated by grocery chains.

The Public Market tries to bridge these gaps, in part by making fresh food more easily available to people who do not live near markets, and in part by tempting customers away from the grocery chains to buy the harvest of local fields. The former is easier than the latter, Carlson says.

“The success of the Mobile Market is that we did just show up,” she says. “The majority of our customers say they learned about us by just walking by.” Mobile Market customers will have an easier time purchasing produce this year than in the past because the mobile operation is now equipped to accept food stamps from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
Selling the CSA can be trickier. In her days managing the CSA for her farm near Sherman, New York, Frederick says she sometimes found that she had to persuade people not used to thinking about local food systems that it was important to “buy their lettuce from me, instead of buying it from Wegman’s.”

Not everyone was interested in hearing about the importance of preserving the nutrients in local soils, yet she persisted. “So much about the way our economy works disempowers consumers,” she says. “Supporting local food systems is something people have so much power over.”

That message is being heard by supporters of the Eat Fresh, Do Good CSA, which currently has 34 participants, 21 of them from the St. Luke’s congregation.

For Fodor, drawing the food that goes out to low-income neighborhoods through the Mobile Market and the food sold through the CSA from the same day’s collection illustrates an important point, not only about local food systems, but about the nature of Christian community.

“We can all come together around food, equity, justice and inclusion,” he says. “We can all be part of the same self-sustaining system, eating together at the same imaginary table.”