Pocket Ministry at St. Justin's in Canton
Small wooden crosses carved from Olive tree wood are making a big impact in Canton, Texas where parishioners of St. Justin’s are sharing their faith, prayers and love to others.
The crosses are part of the church’s Pocket Ministry and have been meaningful to those who give the cross and those who receive it, said parish’s vicar, the Rev. Ron Studenny. “It’s a simple ministry and a way to evangelize that’s not terrifying either way, to the person giving the cross and the person getting the cross.”
Studenny buys bags filled with hundreds of crosses from the Diocese of Connecticut. A couple in Connecticut make the crosses out of Olive tree wood from Israel and sell them at a not-for-profit price to help spread the Gospel. Studenny then blesses the crosses before they are given to parishioners for outreach.
Studenny’s wife, Pam, said she hands the crosses out all the time, because occasions call for it. For instance, once she was at the bank settling the account of her recently deceased mother when the bank clerk began crying as she talked about the death of her own father. Pam gave the girl the cross and prayed for her. Weeks later, Pam said a parishioner saw the wooden cross on the bank clerk’s computer. “You just never know the impact you are going to have,” said Pam, who has also given out many crosses at Wal-Mart. “First, I listen to them, then I tell them here’s a cross to let you know you are in my prayers. I tell them ‘this cross has been blessed,’” she said.
Studenny said he doesn’t use the cross as a hard-sell to try to get people to attend St. Justin’s, but more as a soft evangelism tool. “I don’t care where they go, just go,” he said. I do say, ‘maybe it’s a good time to go back to church.’”
Offering someone a small cross is such a beautiful gesture, said Canon Evangelist Carrie Boren Headington. It lets people know that someone cares, she said. "This is one of many examples to show love to people in the world. Jesus said we are to be like a seed sower casting seeds of the love Jesus wherever we go. This is a perfect example."
The pocket ministry has been very popular in the parish particularly for older people who are not able to participate in some of the bigger outreach projects,” Studenny said. “It has been wonderful.”