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St. Peter Church provides Ashes to Go to kick off Lent

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Rodney Boardman has participated with St. Peter’s Ashes to Go program for over ten years. (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press)

Senior Pastor Miranda Klosterboer (left), Michael Douglass (middle) and Rodney Boardman (right) stand outside the St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church on Feb. 14 to offer ashes and blessings for those passing by. (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press)

The pantry box, situated in front of St. Peter Church, is a resource for those in need of food and other essential items. (Steve Van Kooten/Courier Press)

By Steve Van Kooten

 

On Feb. 14, Michael Douglass, Rodney Boardman and Senior Pastor Miranda Klosterboer were among the church members who endured a chilly morning armed with their coats, their smiles and a sign that read Ashes to Go. It was Ash Wednesday, which meant the start of Lent. People weathered the frigid, morning air as they walked down Michigan Street’s sidewalk or stopped their cars at the curb to receive their blessing in front of the St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. 

“I think the prayer right away in the morning on a special day like today… they’re such a strength, and a nice way to begin the day,” Klosterboer said. The pastor stated Ashes to Go started as a way to accommodate people’s schedules as they balanced their work and personal lives. Boardman added that the service started around 2012.

“It gives the community time to just pause and remember and maybe just take a deep breath and look around to say, ‘Why are we here, what are we doing and what’s important in life?’” Douglass said.

St. Peter Church members provided Ashes to Go from 7–9 a.m. on Valentine’s Day.

Along Michigan Street, next to the sidewalk that crossed the face of the church, Klosterboer pointed out a food pantry box mounted into the ground. The box had a glass door with a sign that read, “Take what you need, leave what you can.”

“We have a little pantry where we gather things within the church for the Couleecap pantry and also out here [the church’s pantry box]. We know that people’s schedules don’t always work to go to the Couleecap pantry.” Klosterboer stated.

“Anybody can give to it; anybody can receive from it,” Associate Pastor Hillary Burns-Kite said. According to Klosterboer, Burns-Kite tried similar projects out in another community. The Prairie box was built in the Spring of 2023 by adults and youth in the congregation’s God’s Work, Our Hands service group as a community project.

Burns-Kite stated the pantry is always looking for donations; microwavable goods, tuna pouches, packaged fruit, paper products, toiletries and hygiene items are highly sought-after supplies for the pantry. Many of the community members who utilize the pantry need items that don’t require stoves or can openers.

“A lot of the people that would be potentially coming might not have those things,” Burns-Kite said.

In the Summer, Spring and Fall the pantry has baskets and a cooler for people to donate fresh produce. In the past, potatoes, squash and a variety of citrus fruits have filled the pantry.

St. Peter pantry and Ashes to Go are two ways the church continues to serve their community. In addition, the congregation has Handy Homes Ministries where members can help others with home repairs. Many of their projects have been referrals from the Aging and Disability Resource Center and Community Development Alternatives.

“They’re really making a difference with the families they’ve been able to help with,” Klosterboer said. “There are a lot of people with those skills and gifts in the congregation, and they’re excited to share their talents.”

St. Peter also hosts a free supper on the third Thursday of each month from 5–6 p.m. during  Lent. Klosterboer referred to it as a community project because other churches and community organizations combine their efforts to make the meal happen.

“A church can’t be a building with doors that keep people out. It’s got to have doors that open, and we have to go out. We have to leave our comfort zone and go into places where people need a human touch,” Douglass said.

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