Justice and compassion

Please see the sections below for our current activities.

The Justice and Compassion Ministry Team coordinates the efforts of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church to help those in need and to build a more just community. We seek to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world today.

Along with other groups in the church and local and international partner organizations, our goal is to find ways to work in solidarity with those who are hungry or otherwise in need. We feed the homeless and food insecure, provide school supplies for area children, support those affected by disaster, organize Volunteers-in-Mission trips, advocate for inclusion of historically marginalized peoples, and help refugees beginning new lives in the community. 

We invite you to join us in helping others as an expression of our faith. There are many opportunities for service at St. Paul’s, and many ways in which you can participate in ongoing efforts and upcoming projects.


To learn more, contact Travis Stalcup, Justice & Compassion team leader, or contact the church office.

Great Day of Service

The Great Day of Service, organized by the Justice & Compassion Team, brings together St. Paul’s members and friends of all ages to serve in our community. The Great Day of Service will be October 3, 2021 but a number of activities will allow for self-paced participation throughout the week. Coordinators for each project will provide more details closer to the event.

Click the button to go to the secure sign-up page!

Sign Up

Great Day of Service Projects for 2021

CARD MINISTRY (coordinator: Meg Baker) - Create and write cards for those on our Congregational Care list (those who are sick, grieving, care-giving, transitioning, etc.). Participate at home or in person.

PARK/TRAIL CLEAN-UP (coordinator: Beth Pierce) - Beautify a local park and trails in the Kensington area by cleaning up trash. Participate in person.

UMCOR HYGIENE KITS (coordinator: Marge Higgins) - Assemble kits, which include toothbrushes, towels, bandages, and other personal necessities. Supplies provided. Assemble at home and drop completed kits off at St. Paul's, or assemble onsite. You can also help by making a financial donation toward the $2 per kit that UMCOR uses to purchase toothpaste, and the cost of mailing kits to UMCOR.

HUNGER MINISTRY (coordinator: Dawn Ely) - Help sort food donations in preparation for community distribution. Appropriate for all ages though young children should come with a parent or guardian. Participate in person.

INTERFAITH WORKS FILL-THE-VAN (coordinator: Rich Higgins) - Provide furniture, clothing, and household goods to support newly arrived refugees and local families displaced by recent flooding. Drop items off at St. Paul's.

COMFORT CASE BACKPACK PROJECT (coordinator: Lyn Walker) - Assemble backpacks for children in foster care using materials supplied by Comfort Cases. Drop packs off at St. Paul's or assemble onsite.

The Better Humans Book Club

Tuesday, Sept. 21 • 7:00 pm

The Better Human Book Club invites you to join the discussion of Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. 

The book is the critically-acclaimed 2018 debut novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and centers on the intertwined lives of two girls coming of age in the perilous world of Escobar-era Bogotá, Colombia.

From the publisher: Seven-year-old Chula lives a carefree life in her gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside her walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar reigns, capturing the attention of the nation. When her mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. Petrona is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy. Inspired by the author’s own life, Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.

According to reviewer and author Sandra Cisneros, “When women tell stories, they are finally at the center of the page. When women of color write history, we see the world as we have never seen it before. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras honors the lives of girls who witness war. Brava! I was swept up by this story.” 

For the Zoom link, look in the Weekly News or email Erin Steele in the church office (stpaulsunited@stpaulsk.org).

The Better Humans Book Club, under the umbrella of the Justice & Compassion team, invites readers to connect with stories from historically underrepresented perspectives and consider nonfiction that challenges us to critically examine and engage with our world.

Click HERE for the list of books previously discussed by the Better Humans Book Club.

BackPack Build

Our Justice & Compassion team partners with Interfaith Works to get new school supplies to disadvantaged children for the start of school. Thank you for donating NEW school supplies to serve families would would otherwise struggle to source these items themselves.

Financial contributions are welcome anytime throughout the year and go toward purchasing additional supplies. Checks should be made payable to St. Paul’s UMC with “Backpacks” on the memo line. You can also donate by credit card! Click here to go to the Miscellaneous Donations section of the Giving page; type in "Backpacks" in the field for "Designated Fund or Cause."

For many years, St. Paul's generous members and friends have supported the Interfaith Works school supply drive, stuffing backpacks full of necessary school supplies to Montgomery County families who would struggle to source everything themselves. We donated over 100 packed bags each year in 2017, 2018, and 2019, requiring two SUVs to deliver all the donations! Due to covid, 2020 and 2021 looked a little different but each year we filled a car full of supplies for students

If you have questions, please contact Erin in the church office (stpaulsunited@stpaulsk.org) or Backpack Build coordinator Angela Harvey.

Shelter Meals in 2021

Next Shelter Meal Date: September 8, 2021

It has been a long tradition at St. Paul’s UMC to prepare and serve meals and fill the pantry of the shelters operated by Interfaith Works, a consortium of over 300 social and religious organizations that serve here in Montgomery County. That tradition includes many St. Paul's groups – among them women’s circles, the United Methodist Men, the choir, the Justice & Compassion Committee, confirmands – helping the women’s shelter in Rockville for a week by assembling bagged lunches and preparing and serving in-person hot dinners. 

Despite the challenges due to COVID in 2020, a hodgepodge of wonderful committed members actually expanded on our tradition, making and delivering (not serving of course) breakfast items, lunches, and/or hot meals for 10 days.

In Spring of 2021, we undertook a week of meals for the 25 women still at the Rockville - Taft Court women’s shelter in April, this year jointly with St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Silver Spring. 

But we also will serve the new women’s shelter in Silver Spring where half the women formerly at Taft Court were relocated due to COVID, and the new homeless women also at that new center. 

We have committed to six meals for about 50 women there, one meal a month for six months.

The coordinator for this outreach effort is Lyn Walker. Anyone who would like to join the St. Paul’s men and women already committed to this initiative should contact Lyn directly or email the church office at stpaulsunited@stpaulsk.org. You can shop for supplies, make deliveries to the shelters, or prepare salads, entrees, pastas, boil eggs, cut up oranges, etc. Please let Lyn know if you wish to serve.

Better Humans Book Club

Recommended Reading List

Below is the list of previous selections read and discussed by the Better Humans Book Club.

  • The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Prey Tell: Why We Silence Women Who Tell The Truth and How Everyone Can Speak Up by Tiffany Bluhm
  • Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It by Robert Lupton
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • There There by Tommy Orange
  • How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships by Matthew Vines
  • Transforming: The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians by Austen Hartke
  • Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland
  • The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Pastor Pat's Message At the Kensington March and Rally

See below for the full video, shot Saturday, June 6, 2020.


Nicaragua VIM

For many years, St. Paul's had an annual tradition of supporting a Volunteers In Mission team each summer, taking a team to Nicaragua in early August. However, because of political and civil unrest in Nicaragua, we decided to cancel the 2018 and 2019 VIM trips, and all 2020 activities were suspended due to Covid-19. Although the entire team was heartbroken about this, we are sure it was the right decision.

St. Paul's VIM team was involved in the building of two new CICOs (community preschools). By 2018, construction had been completed and we were going to put the finishing, beautifying, and practical touches on them such as brightly colored paint, murals, and ceiling fans.

Fear not, those finishing touches happened without us so the schools could get up and running! We are so appreciative of everyone who donated toward the 2018 project. Know that your contributions were sent directly to the community preschools to cover their final costs of supplies and labor. 

We all hope and pray that the turmoil comes to a peaceful resolution and that the communities recover from the ravages of a global pandemic. Thank you, again, for your continued prayers and faithful support of this important ministry. 

Previous Special Events

Vigil for Racial Justice: June 7, 2020. Standing peacefully (and, due to COVID-19, with masks, signs, and 6-feet of space in between families), participants lined Connecticut Ave near Chevy Chase Circle to show support for racial justice. Friends of St. Paul's joined this peaceful vigil with our friends in faith from these sponsoring congregations: Congregation Beth El, Bethesda United Methodist, St. Luke's Episcopal, Saint Mark Presbyterian, Chevy Chase United Methodist, Bethesda Presbyterian, Chevy Chase Presbyterian, Bradley Hills Presbyterian.

Donations for Migrant Children: July 31, 2019. When migrants are released from detention centers run by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they have nothing (even their shoelaces are taken from them). They then go to respite centers nearby for help. In support of KindWorks, a local 501(c)3, and Catholic Charities Diocese of Laredo and the Rio Grande, we invited donations of essential toiletry and hygiene products for children ages 5 months to 17 years, which will be distributed at respite centers in the border area run by Catholic Charities.

Capitol Pride Parade: June 8, 2019. Members from the J&C committee participated in this DC parade in solidarity with and in support of our LGBTQ+ friends, and as a way of carrying the message of Jesus's radical love for all into this public space.

United to Love Rally: August 12, 2018. August 12, 2018 marked the anniversary of a 2017 gathering of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., during which a counter-protester was killed. As part of a prayerful response and call to action, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church hosted the rally "United to Love: Rally for Love, Peace, and Justice" on Sunday, August 12, 2018, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., on the National Mall at 4th Street NW (near the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian). The 11:00 hour included a service of worship with Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, with the rally itself following, in the same location, at 1:00 p.m.

Meet the Missionaries

The Justice & Compassion Team welcomed missionaries Nan McCurdy & Miguel Mairena at a pot-luck dinner in Heavener Hall on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. St. Paul’s has been supporting Nan & Miguel in their work for many years. They discussed their past, present, and future projects with us. 

Starting in Fall 2018, Miguel & Nan joined the team at Give Ye Them to Eat (GYTTE), a group founded in 1977 by Mexican Methodists and missionaries. The goal of GYTTE is to work with marginalized communities on sustainable development that will improve food security, housing, and overall health.  

GYTTE has offices in Puebla, Mexico but the majority of Miguel & Nan’s work will be in a remote town called Tlancualpican, which was at the center of a recent earthquake and saw the destruction of many homes. Besides learning appropriate agricultural and technological practices, the people of Tlancualpican are learning to make earthquake-resistant “straw-bale” homes, one of many alternative construction methods that uses sustainable, locally-sourced construction materials.

GYTTE also has a dedicated training center and test farm in the near-desert climate outside Puebla. There GYTTE facilitates Community Health Worker certifications, training on how to raise and care for livestock, workshops on how to build everything from solar cookers to water-free composting toilets, and much more. GYTTE serves as host for VIM-type groups working in Mexico. Part of the GYTTE mission also includes providing for “the spiritual growth of the Methodist congregations through training events and retreats for laity, clergy, youth, and adults, as well as the production and distribution of Christian Education Materials.” To read more, visit: www.gytte.org

Previously, Miguel & Nan spent 15 years in Nicaragua. In 2017, they came back to the United States on a year-long assignment as Mission Advocates for the Western Jurisdiction in the United States where they helped train and prepare new missionaries whose field assignments will be anywhere from 2 months to 2 years. One of the missionary teams Miguel & Nan worked especially closely with are the first Cuban Methodists sent as missionaries, Leo Garcia and Cleivy Benitez. Miguel & Nan enjoyed sharing their wisdom with Leo & Cleivy, who were medical doctors before feeling called to missionary work and who now serve as pastors and teachers in the Quéssua Mission, one of the oldest Methodist Missions on the continent of Africa, and are “Papi and Mami” to about 60 boys at the orphanage there.  

Miguel & Nan themselves participated in training sessions with the Disaster Response Task Force. In a newsletter to supporters, Nan wrote: “Miguel finished his Emergency Response Teams (ERT) certification last August and was part of the first ERT after Hurricane Harvey to reach the Rio-Texas Conference. Together with twelve others from California-Pacific and Desert Southwest, he worked with homeowners on five homes over nine days in the area of Victoria, Texas.” Despite a quick response, the full recovery process can be slow for families already struggling to make ends meet or those without insurance. Nan explained, “In a year, or two, or three, UMC construction teams will help families rebuild their homes.”

Miguel & Nan also spent time in the winter of 2018 at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota to meet with and support the Lakota Sioux in their ongoing struggle to protect their source of clean water and their sacred land.

Miguel Mairena and Nan McCurdy are directly supported by offerings made to the United Methodist Church’s Global Ministries missions programs through The Advance, the UMC’s official channel for collecting and distributing donations. If you would like to make a donation towards their work, checks may be made payable to St. Paul’s UMC with the memo line marked “Miguel & Nan.” Their designated Advance ID’s are: #12877Z (Miguel) or #10801Z (Nan).

Ministry Partner Highlight:

InterFaith Works

Interfaith Works, founded in 1972, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency and a non-sectarian interfaith coalition of more than 165 affiliated congregations of diverse faiths, working together to meet the needs of the poor and homeless in Montgomery County, Md. Their trained, professional staff members and volunteers work with individuals and families in crisis to help equip them to lift themselves from poverty and homelessness through prevention, stabilization, and empowerment programs.

To get involved directly with Interfaith Works, visit: http://www.iworksmc.org/getinvolved/

On any given day, 981 people in Montgomery County are homeless, including 230 children. Almost 72,000 Montgomery County residents are living on annual incomes below the Federal poverty line, and 19,757 of these residents are children. The IW Women's Center Shelter, Men's Shelter, clothing center, educational, job readiness, and family programs serve those most at risk in our community.

  • BackPack Build

    In August of 2017, 2018, and 2019, St Paul’s did a fabulous job packing over 100 backpacks each year for local school children in need. We packed binders, dividers, pocket folders, pencil pouches/boxes, colored pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, and rulers in the backpacks. We were also able to provide crayons, filler paper, pencils, erasers and pencil sharpeners. It now takes 2 SUVs to transport everything to Interfaith Works! Many thanks to all members of St Paul’s for their generosity, love, and support, and special thanks is due to annual Backpack Build coordinators Leigha Gordillo and Angela Harvey!

  • IW Women's Center NeeDS

    On June 12, 2017 the sewer line failed at the new Interfaith Works Women’s Center in Rockville and flooded the Rose Room dorm where 19 shelter residents sleep each night. All items that were contaminated by sewage had to be discarded, including residents’ clothing, documents, personal care items, and irreplaceable keepsakes. The losses turned what was meant to be a time of healing for residents into a stressful ordeal. Office equipment was also damaged, offices were rendered temporarily non-functional, water service had to be shut off entirely, and all 70 residents had to be relocated from Rockville to the Interfaith Works Empowerment Center in Silver Spring. Clean-up and repairs are still underway.

    Due to the nature of this emergency, St. Paul’s UMC responded to the IWWC request for monetary donations to help address specific needs quickly and efficiently. Through a special offering, our generous donors provided almost $4,000 towards this effort. With our help, they were able to help women in the shelter replace lost items, pay for equipment repairs, and restore a safe, clean, and beautiful facility for residents.