Native American members of St. John United Methodist Church in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference have adopted a tribal tradition to honor the community they serve. In many tribes, families hold a Give-away ceremony to honor their relatives who have special achievements. Historically, Give-aways have been a way to distribute wealth and to strengthen the community. In that same spirit, St. John’s holds a monthly food Give-away and feeds nearly 70 families, many of whom are tribal members of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe.
“The church operates under the concept that ‘if I have plenty, so do you because I will share with you,” said Rosa Williams, Greater New Jersey Conference lay leader.
The Church is in Cumberland County which has the highest rate of poverty and food insecurity in the state of New Jersey.
The Give-away is organized by the Cuff cousins, Pat, Mary Ann, and Bonnie whom are all members of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe.
They coordinate food and household items which are donated by the Food Bank of New Jersey, Amazon, and other community members. The Cuff cousins recently received the New Jersey Annual Conference Laity ministry award for their service.
“The Laity award re-affirms the work and creativity of the people at the local church who are committed to reaching out to the community in Christ’s love,” said Williams. “The Cuff cousins exemplify this through the Give-away ministry.”
In addition to hosting a monthly Give-away, the Cuff cousins also prepare 30 baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas for families in need.
St. John was founded in 1841 and became a hiding place for Native Americans after president Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, according to church historians. Today, the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribe is very visible in the community and many tribal members attend the church.