Since the third week of March, members of Lancaster Moravian Church, 225 N. Queen St., have been providing food packages to the homeless in Lancaster. The food distributions take place Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings on the sidewalk outside the Red Rose Transit Authority station. (The church is located on the second floor of the station.)
Shortly after the outreach began, the Rev. Mandy Mastros, the church’s pastor, was informed that a local distillery had begun making hand sanitizer. She was asked if she would like to dispense that with the food.
“We said ‘yes,’ ” Mastros said, “so it was dropped off to us.”
Church members labeled the 80 small bottles “Hand Sanitizer; Blessings of Good Health to you; Know that you are Loved!”
During food distribution, a volunteer squeezes sanitizer on recipients’ hands as they pick up their food packages.
But to at least one church member, this simple act had a sacred feel to it.
“One of our volunteers mentioned that this felt like Holy Communion to her,” Mastros explained. “It’s been beautiful. It has started conversations and it just feels very special to be able to do that in this time when everything feels upended.”
Mastros described the meal distributions as a “wonderful exercise of gratitude and generosity. And then the hand sanitizer and the parallels (with communion) that I have felt. It’s a sacred moment.”
Mastros only allows church members to participate and has limited the number to four volunteers at a time. And while some have asked to take sanitizer with them, she limits that to one small bottle due to limited quantities and because the sanitizer is alcohol based. They also hand out information as to where people can get free meals and how to protect themselves during the pandemic.
In an essay that will be distributed to church members in a newsletter, Mastros wrote, “If you opened the bottle and smelled it, there were two scents that hit your nose. That of alcohol, which some of our folks likened to cheap vodka, and the smell of the essential oils. As folks rubbed it into their skin, the air was filled with scents of lavender, lemongrass, patouli and other pleasing aromas. I couldn’t help but think of Mary and the others, taking spices to Jesus tomb. I couldn’t help but think of costly nard poured on Jesus’ feet. I couldn’t help but think of the oil dripping down Aaron’s beard. All of these beautiful scents lingering in the air as a reminder of the sacredness of this moment.”
While some food recipients have declined to use the sanitizer, Mastros said most have been grateful.
“It’s created some laughter because it’s all liquid and it’s messy and in some ways reduces the tension.”
There also are those, she said, who are embarrassed because their hands are dirty.
“To me, there are so many parallels — what it is to accept the gift that God has given us through Christ. It doesn’t matter what our story is, (the gift) is open to everybody.”
Her essay concludes: “This, from start to finish is indeed what Communion looks like during a pandemic. Grace, mercy and peace from God, our Divine Parent, and from the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!”