Church Collects Bears to Comfort Children in Distress

“The bears are everywhere,” Deacon Sherry Munday explained. “We have them in the rectory, you’ll find them in the pews and on the pulpit…they are all over the church.”

The bears have taken up residence at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Richmond Street in Chester. The bear collection is part of the church’s ever ongoing community service in the area.
As part of their outreach program, the members of St. John’s decided to collect teddy bears. They will then be given to the Chesterfield County Police Department. “Officers will be able to have the bears in their patrol cars to give to any child they encounter who is upset or in a stressful situation,” said Munday.

Deacon Munday brought the suggestion to the church after hearing about the idea from the Church of the Redeemer in Midlothian. Another minister told the story of seeing the bears in a church he was visiting in doing work for the poor. “He related to me a time when he found a church full of teddy bears,” Munday said. “The bears were in the pews, on the altar, clinging to the pulpit and all over the nave.” Munday said that when asked about the bears “the priest-in-charge told the visiting reverend that the church worships with the bears, blesses the bears, and then delivers them to the state police, who carry them in their cruisers to give to children they find in stressful situations.”

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chester decided to use this idea for an outreach project for the season of Epiphany, the time between Christmas and Lent.  Munday knew this was something her small church of more than 100 parishners would enjoy doing. “It was just such a wonderful idea and our parish has really gotten behind it,” she shared.

The state police didn’t have the teddy bear program anymore, so Munday approached the Chesterfield County Police Department. She arranged for the bears to have a home with patrolmen in the county who run into children in stressful situation who need the comfort of a friendly little teddy bear.

While a small church, St. John’s is very active in the community and often comes up with very imaginative missions to help their community and other areas. They began the teddy bear drive in January and blessed the bears on March 2 to go on their journey to help children in stressful situations.

The church has worked on many good deeds during the years and has been involved in a feeding program for overseas, they donate food for Thanksgiving through the CCHASM program, they help with backpacks of school supplies in the Tools for Schools program, the Angel Tree program, and they help with a ministry in Richmond that ministers to the homeless.

They are also involved with a Virginia program to help people in need of medical care in the Southwest Virginia area   during a few days in July.  They make prayer shawls for those who are sick. St. John’s is a very small, intimate parish always looking for unique ways to help their community.

Munday thinks it’s been a wonderful experience for the church. “The parishioners of St. John’s have been very enthusiastic about this outreach project.  Each Sunday the children have had a delightful time counting the bears,” she recounted.

Each Sunday bears arrived at the church.  At last count there were 70-plus bears.  They are in the pews, in front of the altar, in the Bishop’s chair, and lined up along the railing of the choir loft.  On March 2, the bears were blessed and Deacon Munday will deliver them to the property department of the Chesterfield County Police.   They were shooting for 100 teddies for the kids. “It’s just been such a wonderful outreach project,” Munday said. “They’ve all gotten behind it and I think we’re all going to miss them when they’re gone.”

Reverend Dale Custer, the rector of the church, blessed the bears at the Sunday morning service and joked that he “got a haircut just for them.” Munday said the church is always looking for good works. “We look for the need and try to answer it,” said Munday. “This sounded like a really good idea and we look for good works wherever we can get them.”

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