Random bags of kindness in Portsmouth


PORTSMOUTH — John Wesley (1703-1791) would have been proud to see those bags full of food outside the Portsmouth United Methodist Church this week.

The founder of the Methodist movement was all about giving back to the community, says Kathy Smith, a lay speaker at the church located just north of the library on East Main Road.

“His challenge to Christians was basically to do all you can by all the means you can,” Ms. Smith said. “We just felt this would be a good time to give back to the community through service, either individually or by the church, and say ‘thank you.’”

The church is celebrating its 175th anniversary through a series of events that reach out to the community, she said. Church members are starting with the food donation drive, which is expected to run for one week.

“It just become clear to us that when we were thinking about ways to celebrate our 175th anniversary, we didn’t just want to celebrate within the walls of our church. We wanted to share our love and gratitude,” said Ms. Smith.

The bags are free to anyone who’d like to take one, she said.

“We’re just putting bags out with nonperishable food and they can take whatever they want. Some people need a helping hand and it’s a been a hard winter. We don’t care who is it,” she said.

Church members have been bringing in items for the bags, but anyone is welcome to donate to the church, which is located at 2732 East Main Road.

The church has several others events planned for the near future.

“We’re organizing different activities out in the community. We’re trying to do something each month,” she said. “There will be a car wash at some point and that will be free. We will never ask for a donation; we’ll just turn around and ask the person to do something for someone else.

“We’re just reaching out in to the community and saying thank you and they we love our friends and neighbors.”

For more information about the church, call 401/683-4005 or visit http://pumcri.org.

Church history

According to the Portsmouth United Methodist Church’s website, the church’s roots go back to 1793, when a Methodist Society was formed in Portsmouth under the direction of Rev. Lemuel Smith, an early circuit rider. The Society met at the home of Matthew Cooke in the area under what is now the Mt. Hope Bridge. This first house of worship was dedicated by two notable early church leaders, Bishop Francis Asbury and Rev. Jesse Lee.

The small congregation was composed primarily of farmers and fishermen, and it kept growing despite struggle and hardship, the website states. In 1795, the members purchased a home on Turnpike Avenue which they used as a house of worship for more than 40 years until they began to outgrow it.

“In 1838, the congregation purchased a lot in the middle of the developing town for the sum of $102.50. The new church was constructed for a cost of $2,020 and was dedicated on Dec. 25 the same year,” the website states.

The Ladies Benevolent Society was formed in the 1870s and it immediately paid off all debt. Because of the Ladies’ continuing efforts, the Parish House was built in 1921. The third and final phase of construction connected the 1838 sanctuary to the Parish House in 1969.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.