Familiar virtues? Yes. Cows? Also yes.
The definitions of the three virtues were clarified by the philosopher Thomas Aquinas in the medieval period, where Aquinas defined faith, hope, and charity as theological virtues that defined mankind’s ideal relationship to God.
While our church’s relation to these virtues goes back 200 years, our relation in the form of cows does not date that long ago. It was the 1950s when the Rev. Mayhew brought the Heifer International project to our Bridgewater congregation. Phoebe Hogg recently recalled that time, when a hog for the local fundraising project boarded at the Hogg farm.
The Heifer program ran here for a number of years with children participating before falling to the wayside. In the mid to late 1990s, Terry Reynolds and then associate minister Sheri Anderson came up with the idea of a wooden cow that would travel around the congregation’s home lawns, inviting contributions and increased participation by adults.
The first cow, Faith, was “born” with the carpentry skills of Rob Basler. Faith traveled alone for a while but soon was joined by Hope and Charity. To this day, nearly 30 years since Faith arrived, the three are moved from house to house, raising funds to feed the needs internationally, for about a month. The three cows this past winter managed to travel safely in the pandemic. However, one year all three were buried for a while due to a horrendous snowstorm.
In addition to raising funds with our wooden cows, the Sunday school program at all age levels at CSCC has typically spent the month of January learning about Heifer International, and their mission worldwide to “end hunger and poverty in a sustainable way by supporting and investing alongside local farmers and their communities.” Whereas their mission started with providing animals to these communities, now the animals, fish, and fowl are raised in the country where they are needed. The focus is on raising funds to send to those countries to make the purchases. The month of study by our Sunday schoolers then culminates in our Living Gift Market where each age group has decided what animal(s) they want to sponsor, and has created appropriately-themed food and crafts to sell to the congregation at large in a “market” setting.
Terry recalled a few highlights over the years with the annual Heifer International Sunday celebrated by our children and adults. She remembers Brad Barnsley and Rob Basler dressing as Noah, striding the aisle to the front of the church. Other fun memories include Kevin, Max, and Brynlee Compton each taking turns dressing as a llama to provide rides (for a donation) to the little children. Bryn Jacobs offered a worm dance on the floor. The fish costume is popular and has been worn by the likes of Lukas Hanson and Ben Sheibley. Some families bring pets, providing opportunities to feed the pet rabbit, the chicken, and so on, for a small donation.
Bonus fun: a chicken brought by David Hanson once laid an egg during the festivities. David also has brought other animals from his farm, including a calf. And, Terry recalled, the Rev. Novotny raised goats at the parsonage on Union Street for donation to the Heifer Project.
Over this recent 30 years, popular food sales at our annual Living Gift Market are keyed to the animal or other foodstuff: pigs in blankets, honey butter, deviled eggs, various creatively-named sweets and fun stuff with chocolate (which will remain nameless here).
Look for more fun with Faith, Hope, and Charity after the new year! Thank you, Terry, for the memories and for carrying this on.
Heifer International started as Heifers for Relief in 1944. Its founder, an Ohio farmer named Dan West, was a Church of the Brethren relief worker during the Spanish Civil War. Working with Quakers and Mennonites, West directed a program where hungry children were given rations of milk. In 1938, West was ladling out milk to hungry refugee children and wrote later that he thought, “These children don’t need a cup [of milk], they need a cow.”
The charity was incorporated in 1944 and sent its first shipment of 17 heifers to Puerto Rico. Several local farmers who knew the founder West donated the animals. The first cows were named, “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity,” and recipient families had to promise that they would donate the first female calf to another poor family. Heifer International would eventually broaden its scope to distribute fish, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, oxen, water buffaloes, bees, llamas, alpacas, camels, frogs, and rabbits.
History Source: Wikipedia