“When will he get here?” wondered several parishioners at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Syracuse, New York. For weeks, they’d been anticipating Apostolic Vicar Philip Jones’ special visit to their church’s weekly garage sale ministry. They didn’t realize that very Thursday afternoon, they had been working alongside the incognito bishop—moving furniture, unpacking boxes and putting books on shelves in the garage sale’s rented building.
“He just served like he was part of the team,” the Rev. Steven Evans says. “I wear a clerical collar every Thursday, and I told him to wear his worst purple shirt because he would be getting it dirty. But he just wore jeans and a regular shirt.”
Bishop Jones arrived Wednesday, April 22, ready to serve the next day at the spring opening of St. Andrew’s garage sale ministry, which provides clothing and home goods to the homeless, those in poverty, immigrant families, women escaping abusive situations, low-income individuals and more. St. Andrew’s hosts the garage sale from 12 to 6 p.m. each Thursday in a building shared shared by two other churches and a used book store, and that evening holds a potluck dinner and Bible study for anyone in the community. In the past few years, St. Andrew’s has helped women escaping difficult life situations and starting over, families who have lost their homes in fires, people who have been robbed, and average people who just needed friends and a good deal.
That selfless service to the community piqued Bishop Jones’ interest, so he planned a visit to see it for himself. On Wednesday evening, he enjoyed dinner with St. Andrew’s leadership and on Thursday, he showed up ready to help at the garage sale despite the unseasonably snowy weather. It was a perfect week for the extra set of hands, as Steven says they were not fully set up and part of their regular team was sick or injured. Bishop Jones embraced each humble task wholeheartedly.
“We certainly didn’t treat him special,” Steven says. “There were lay people telling him to take out the garbage and the recycling, but he didn’t mind.”
Moreover, Bishop Jones showed an exceptional heart for serving the garage sale’s unique clientele. St. Andrew’s area of upstate New York suffers from unemployment, poverty and related issues.
“He made time for everybody,” Steven says. “We have a lot of people with special needs who come to us, and he made time for each of them.”
At the Bible study that night, Bishop Jones gave his testimony. He talked about his calling into ministry and the importance of The Mission’s emphasis on being a Three Stream movement.
“Our people really connected with that,” Steven says. “He was a great encouragement to our church and worked hard for us. Talk about servant leadership in action.”