Books Through Bars Finds a Home at St. Barnabas, Warwick

Books Through Bars Finds a Home at St. Barnabas Warwick

Late in 2021, Providence Books Through Bars, an all-volunteer organization that sends books to people in prison all over the country, knew they needed a different space from which to work. For almost a decade, the group had been working out of a volunteer’s garage. But lack of heat or access to facilities made the work of sending over 1,000 packages of books to inmates across the US difficult. 

Volunteer Therese Zink was worshipping at St. Mark’s, Warwick at the time, and asked the Rev. Susan Wrathall whether space might be available in an Episcopal church building. Wrathall suggested St. Barnabas in Warwick where the Rev. Scott Lee, the church’s rector, was happy to make room for the program. 

Hosting Providence Books Through Bars “extends the congregation’s ministry to care for those in prison. It allows us to live into the call to love others as Christ loves us; to care for others in the ways that Jesus makes clear in Matthew 25,” Lee says. “It allows us to acknowledge that this is part of our call as Christians and a simple way to tell people ‘you are not forgotten.’” 

At St. Barnabas, Books Through Bars moved into a space four times larger than their previous garage home early in 2022. The new “upgraded” space, as Zink calls it, includes ample room for book storage and tables for packaging and labeling. The location, on the first level of the building, allows volunteers to move in and out without carrying bins of packages up or down stairs on their way to the post office.  

Dr. Zink, a professor of family medicine at Brown University, says the parish is a great host. “Several vestry members worked with us to find the right space. Having access to internet and cell phone service is critical to our work,” she says. “I’ve … moved my membership to St. Barnabas because I was so touched by the engagement the vestry and Father Scott exhibited in the possibility of hosting Books Through Bars.”   

In its new digs, Books Through Bars has dedicated one room to fiction, and another to non-fiction and its mailing operation. The organization maintains a database of inmates’ previous choices along with the regulations and restrictions at specific prisons. The group has between 5,000 and 8,000 titles on hand at any one time, and mails approximately 500 books a month in packages of two to four paperbacks each. 

Books Through Bars is open to volunteers on Sunday afternoons following worship and coffee hour at St. Barnabas. The congregation has welcomed volunteers to attend coffee hour, and the group has reciprocated by hosting coffee hour for the congregation.  

Teens in the congregation find the program a good fit for their community service hours, and two high school volunteers from another part of the city have begun attending the 10:00 service.  

Books Through Bars accepts donations of paperback books, but not hard covers. Inmates – on average 150 or so each month – write to request books within a certain genre or area of interest rather than by specific title. One prisoner, with an interest in reading “the classics,” has requested and read about 1,000 books. 

Financial donations help cover mailing costs and the purchase of books not already on the organization’s shelves. Manga and anime are both popular genres that frequently require purchase.  

Providence Books Through Bars was founded in 2003 by Dirt Palace, a Providence feminist artists’ collective, and is a 501 c3 non-profit. It is associated with the national Books Through Bars organization.  

United Thank Offering (ECW)

United Thank Offering: A partner with The Episcopal Church Women

 The United Thank Offering (UTO) is a ministry of The Episcopal Church created to fund innovative mission and ministry projects.  From its initial collection in 1889 led by Ida Soule and Julia Chester Emery, the ministry has focused on gratitude and the importance of making a thank offering to remember that all good things come from God.  Since its inception, the ministry has grown exponentially through the grassroots efforts of dedicated coordinators/organizers and faithful participation by all Episcopalians.  Thank offerings are collected in parishes, dioceses, and provinces, as well as at The Triennial meeting and General Convention.  These funds are then awarded by the UTO Board annually as grants for loving, liberating, and life-giving work through innovative parish and diocesan ministries that help people live more fully in the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.  The United Thank Offering has become synonymous with the Blue Box, a tangible reminder that encourages individuals to pray daily, give thanks to God, and make a thank offering into the Blue Box.

Contact the Chairperson for the UTO in our diocese to get your Blue Box and to know about the UTO ingathering in the Diocese of Rhode Island.

Your ECW diocesan board is the center for our local UTO ministry.

You may donate to the UTO by sending your check to The Episcopal Church Women Diocese of Rhode Island. Make your check out to Episcopal Church Women RI, write UTO in the memo line. Thank You!

National UTO information:

Facebook: @UnitedThankOffering or

Sign up for UTO E-News

Revamping Space to Save Revenue

Reconfiguring portions of its parish hall building is creating new opportunities for ministries at Trinity, North Scituate.

“For the past two years, our vestry has been working to address sustainability,” explained the Rev. Johanna Marcure, rector. “In an effort to reduce our dependence on two annual fundraisers and with the hope of using those events to fund outreach instead of our budget, we’ve been exploring ways in which our buildings might help to supplement our income.”

Last fall, the vestry voted to move the church’s thrift shop from a location in the village of Scituate, and move a food ministry which serves about 60 families regularly, from the lower level of Graham Hall.

They’ll be housed upstairs in Graham Hall, above the parish hall. Sunday School and youth group rooms also are being reconfigured. The church library will move from Graham Hall to the first floor of the church, which will provide more space for study and meetings.

“It is our vestry’s fervent belief that the moves will strengthen these important outreach ministries, better utilize our buildings and help in our meeting our finance needs,” Marcure said.

Volunteers have been working with leaders of both ministries to plan and implement the changes. With the Rev. Susan Carpenter and her husband Brian recently joining Trinity’s community, Marcure invited Susan to help facilitate the transition of the outreach ministries into their new space by heading up the Task Force. “With Susan’s leadership as a congregational development consultant along with her extensive retail experience, it seemed like the perfect ministry for her to step into at Trinity,” said Marcure.

“We have been meeting regularly via Zoom, and subcommittees are moving forward, identifying new ways these long-standing ministries could function. We are focused on broadening the base of volunteer workers,” Carpenter noted. “To do that, we home in on peoples’ spiritual gifts to help them find the best match for their ministry.”

New possibilities might include training members of the congregation to be part of a pastoral care team that will be available during hours that the facilities are open. Or opening the shop and food pantry more often and at varying times to better accommodate the people Trinity serves. Families and young people might find new ways to participate in these ministries.

Church members are doing much of the construction, and Trinity has donated all the merchandise from the existing thrift shop to allow a totally fresh re-opening — scheduled for August 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’re acquiring new displays, racks and shelving, and the diocesan Congregational Development Commission approved a grant we are using for a washer and dryer; shelving and shopping carriages for the food closet; and a computer and printer for inventory for both ministries,” Carpenter added. “Every item donated for sale will be washed or dry cleaned. Elevating the cleanliness and being selective with donations will help attract more customers.”

Marcure said the project is helping the congregation learn a lot about change, noting that “adaptive change is not instantaneous, and it requires restraint and a lot of Holy patience, especially during a pandemic!” Marcure also noted that Trinity is hoping to repurpose and incorporate items that have been sitting idle: “For example, recognizing that our thrift shop ministry is sacred and holy work, we decided to refinish a deconsecrated altar no longer in use as our sales counter in the shop.”

Charities NOW

Many have asked in this time of pandemic, “What can I do? How can I love my neighbor when I can’t leave my home?” We know you want to make a difference and want to help your neighbor in need, but Covid-19 has thwarted your power.

Here’s your answer. Episcopal Charities announces the debut of “Charities NOW”. “Charities NOW” collects donations from you, our donors, and immediately turns them around to aid those ministries and agencies on the front-lines assisting our at-risk elders and at-risk children. This departure from our grant program allows us to distribute funds right away. We have identified those who are working tirelessly to bring food, shelter, medicine, and other basic human needs to our brothers and sisters, but they need our help Now. (Click here to see a list of agencies we have helped) 100% of your donation goes to this effort. No administration fees are deducted.

So, how do you donate? It’s easy. Click on the button below, enter your credit card and donation on the “Charities NOW” line. To make a contribution by check, make it payable to Episcopal Charities of Rhode Island, 275 North Main Street, Providence, RI. 02903. On the memo line of your check, please write “NOW”. That’s it!

And, you don’t have to leave the house! Hurry, they need us. They need you!

Emergency Management

Is your congregation prepared in the event of an emergency? If a devastating storm hits, or there is an outbreak of something like the coronavirus, what will you do?

Points to consider:

  • Get your contact lists up to date! You will need to use your congregation’s lists – mail/email/phone/etc, to keep in touch with people. Consider setting up a phone tree, so that those who are not online are not cut off. The Diocese would very much like to have your lists as well, so that we are in a position to be helpful in reaching out to those affected.
  • Check with your local Emergency Managers to see if they might need any assistance, and to get yourself in the informational loop. Your buildings might not qualify as emergency shelters, but there are other things that could be of service such as storing emergency food stores, serving as cell phone charging stations for area residents, being a water distribution point, etc.
  • Consider how to worship. Can any of the Daily Offices be led via Facebook Live, or a YouTube channel? This is a very helpful video explaining how to get your service on Facebook. (We have a list of additional online worship suggestions available here, if your congregation isn’t set up to provide them.)
  • Consider how to keep the business of your congregation running. Is telecommuting possible? Is online bill paying set up? Online pledging? Do your parishioners know they can arrange auto-payments from their bank?
  • How do you stay in touch? There are number of ways to continue holding meetings, checking in, even worshiping. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live, YouTube
  • If you are taking infection control steps during services (‘hands-off” during the peace, communion in one kind, etc) you must communicate this. Place a note in the bulletin, make an announcement at the start of the service, post to your website, put a note in your weekly email.
  • Encourage your congregants to be prepared for an emergency. (Always a good idea.) Bottled water, non-perishable foods, and a sufficient supply of necessary medications should be on hand when emergency strikes.


Coronavirus: what we haven’t heard from Government

5th March 2020

The Bishop’s Coronavirus Golden Rules

Not official advice: read and heed that here – but this is food-for-thought about our attitudes.

Golden Rule One: Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the  official precautions,  offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.

Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.

Golden Rule Three: Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.

Golden Rule Four: Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:

Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

+Alan St Albans

Do you have your suggestions of other Golden Rules to help us during this time? Please tweet them #coronagoldenrules


Helpful links: CDC general advice for preventing the spread of infectious disease Advice for public gatherings Specific advice for Churches Coronavirus faq page Registry for anyone with oxygen or other medical equipment at home, or with other needs that first responders might need to know.

Social services resources

Is someone you know looking for help with housing, food, healthcare, or other human services?

The internet search engine of your choice is your best way to find things, but here is a short, partial list of commonly-consulted organizations and resources specific to Rhode Island.

United Way of Rhode Island 211 directory: this webpage explains the “Call 211” resource. Calling 211 reaches a United Way employee who can help you find the resources you need.

Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless resources. This page includes links to the regional”Street Sheet” trifold brochures in English and Spanish listing food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other resources. Every priest or parish administrator should print out a stack to have on hand at your congregation’s reception desk and tract rack.

Crossroads RI Homeless Shelters. Also includes a domestic violence shelter component.

Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Includes directory of food sites.

Free medical clinics, etc.: RI Department of Health listing.

Mental health emergencies : Butler Hospital.

Blackstone Valley Community Action Program (BVCAP)

Anchor Recovery Services: alcohol and drug recovery support.

Sexual assault treatment and helpline: DayOne RI.

Domestic violence shelter and resources: Sojourner House.

Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence: helpline and resources.

Help Raise Funds for Episcopal Charities

Episcopal Charities was founded in 1952 with the desire and sense of responsibility to help those in need, and this tradition continues today.

“In acknowledgement of the Gospel Imperative to feed, clothe, heal and visit, the Episcopal Charities Fund of Rhode Island assists ministries of the Diocese and charities of the wider Rhode Island community by raising and helping to provide funds, and in so doing, bringing hope, comfort and healing to Rhode Islanders in need.”

Funds from Episcopal Charities will be used to assist battered women and abused children seeking a safe haven, to provide thousands with food, heat, shelter, healthcare and other basic needs, and to give the elderly and terminally ill cepiscopal-charities-shield-lgomfort and a sense of dignity through their last days. Through Episcopal Charities, those who suffer from drug addiction receive help toward recovery. Immigrants will be able to read and speak English. Children find the unconditional love of Jesus and learn leadership skills at summer camps. In 2015, grants were distributed to 69 agencies and programs throughout Rhode Island.

Selection Process:

Each year the Grant Review Committee visits agencies and reviews all agency funding requests for conformance with its mission statement. Requests are discouraged that can obtain funding elsewhere or are heavily funded by government sources. Episcopal Charities does not grant funds to pay for existing debts, capital projects, advocacy, or research.

Our Donors:

The Episcopal Charities Annual Campaign raises funds for grant distributions through the generous spirit and caring of individuals in the Episcopal churches of the Diocese, as well as support from members of the Rhode Island corporate community. You can help raise funds by organizing a campaign in your church, soliciting funds from people you know, hosting a fundraiser or even just donating!


Your gift will do so much for so many.

Giving to the Episcopal Charities Fund is the best way to help those in need.

100% of your donation is granted out to agencies and diocesan entities to address the critical issues of our time. Our administrative costs are covered by a special endowment.

We do the research – so you know your money is going to worthwhile causes and well run agencies. We follow up to ensure that grants are being used effectively and as intended, and we support many small agencies where our grants have a significant impact on their ability to offer specific services and programs.

Make Your Contribution Online Today!


Or donate by check with our mail-in form. (PDF)

Give the Gift of a Donation to Episcopal Charities!

Whether for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries or just to say, “I love you,” give someone the gift of helping others. Print out a free honor card to share the gift of Episcopal Charities.

If you have any questions please contact us at 401-274-4500 x234 or by email at

Apply for an Episcopal Charities Grant

Congregations as well as agencies may apply for grants to do outreach activities by or hosted the church or by an agency. Agencies should be aware that while any agency can apply, preference is given to agencies affiliated with an Episcopal Church. The application for an Episcopal Charities grant is posted in late winter/early spring each year.  The deadline for submitting the application is June 30, 2020.  Throughout the summer and fall, Charities volunteers read the applications and make site visits to many of the agencies.  The grants are awarded in November and December of each year.  The application (when available ), as well as  information about the application process, can be found here