AUBURN — Wegmans was busier than usual this Sunday as hundreds of people from Grace Chapel church in Skaneateles shopped in the Auburn store to stock food pantries and local pregnancy centers with needed items.
Grace Chapel called the day "Acts 29 Sunday" and instead of collecting tithes and offerings, the church opted to hold a 20-minute service and encouraged the congregation to spend what they otherwise would have given to the church on items to donate to the community.
"There is no Acts 29," said Senior Pastor Barry Sisson during the church service, referring to the book of Acts in the Bible which only has 28 chapters. "Acts is all about ... the establishment of the church. But Acts 29 is about being the Church. This is where we go and we are the Church.
"Today is about showing God's love in Auburn," Sisson said. "I will remind you that love is never silent and love never stands at a distance."
Sisson explained to the congregation that the shopping list provided for shoppers was created by the pregnancy center and food pantries themselves, so items purchased will meet direct needs. After a few more directions on logistics, Sisson said the word of the day was "patience," and with that he concluded the service: "Go be the Church."
By 10 a.m. shoppers had already flooded the Auburn Wegmans, walking through the store and filling their carts to the brim with cereals, canned goods, personal hygiene and baby care items, jars of peanut butter, laundry detergent and more.
"It's been fun, a little hectic," said shopper Corrine LaFrance as she and her cousins took inventory of the items in their cart to see how much money they had left to spend. "But it's nice to see the money doing something instead of just giving it away."
Alisha Northrup said the experience has been "eye opening (and) overwhelming in a good way" for herself and her husband, Jamie, who live in Auburn and have been members of the church for eight years.
"It is unique going to the grocery store and not shopping for yourself," Jamie said, adding that it's important for the church to be involved in the community in ways like this "so people know they are not alone."
Sisson said one of the ideas the church wants to foster and cultivate for the congregation is "to be the Church, not just attend church." He said the congregation chose to invest in Auburn to help meet needs and express love because, as the closest city to the church, it "is our neighbor."
The church hosted the event in the summer because the food pantries and the pregnancy center expressed that it is their greatest time of need, Sisson explained. He also added that Wegmans has been an amazing partner and even expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to make a difference in the community — which included overstocking on certain items and reserving a handful of dedicated check-out lanes for Sunday.
When shoppers exited Wegmans, there was a sorting and packing team outside preparing and loading up the donations for delivery Sunday afternoon. The church filled a 16-foot-long moving truck and two pick-up trucks with boxes of donations before all shoppers had even completed their purchases.
"This is our way to express love in a tangible way," Sisson said, adding that the event was not about being noticed but about loving the community.
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