The Branches Episcopal Outreach Center


  "I am the Vine, you are the branches..."  John 15:5,9  

1304 Rt. 47, Unit A-H
Rio Grande, NJ 08242


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Sandra Lockhart,
Acting Director

    Where All are Welcome!                             

Events at The Branches

Partners in Ministry

The Branches was created to bring the presence of our church into another part of our County. Why? Because we believe we have something special to share:  good news about God who loves us and is calling us to share the love with one another. So we chose to establish a storefront ministry through which we hope people will catch a glimpse of what God's love can do in our lives, of how that love can transform hearts, make us new again, and restore hope to our world. The Branches is a journey into God's love and that journey takes place best in community, wherever two or three are gathered.

What is The Branches and How Can You Help?
The Branches, located at the Village Shoppes in Rio Grande, is an outreach ministry of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Stone Harbor, operating in collaboration with St. Barnabas by the Bay, Villas, and other area churches.  The center started with Coffee & Conversation two days a week.  Now, after six years, it has grown into a 6-days per week, multiple-activity outreach center providing a safe, positive environment for the elderly, disabled, homeless, and individuals or families living in poverty.

The Branches is open six days a week from 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM, Monday to Saturday.  We serve free breakfast and lunch in the winter months, and bag lunches during the summer months that are provided by our volunteers and area churches.   We also  partner with WaWa Corporation as part of their Harvest Program where they provide breakfast and lunch items. Local businesses provide bread, rolls, and desserts. Snacks, drinks and coffee are available all day. 

The Branches stays open all day, every day when the temperatures dip and people need shelter from the cold until they can get into a motel room later in the day. Dinner is provided for our guests.

A prayer service with Eucharist is held by our Priest in Charge on Mondays at 11 AM and by local clergy at 11:30 AM on Wednesdays, immediately before lunch is served.  Some of the programs/services that have been offered at The Branches include Christian education, chair yoga, free access to the internet and use of the computer, card club, craft classes, monthly movie nights, health screenings, sewing machines and classes, help with resumes and job applications, drug and alcohol abuse classes, and providing a safe, friendly place where people can find shelter from the extreme weather . . . hot or cold.  We need your help to keep these programs going and continue to expand the services we can provide.

The Branches' volunteers began serving traditional dinners on Thanksgiving Day and delivered take-out hot meals to people in area motels who could not get out.  We also served soup on Christmas Eve and hot Italian food on Christmas Day.  Area churches and organizations have also joined in providing and serving holiday meals.

Questions?  The Branches Acting Director, Sandra Lockhart, is available to answer any questions you may have.  You can reach her at (609) 886-5091 or call St. Mary's office 609-368-5922 for more information.

Read more here.

Ecclesia Ministries of Cape May County  - Weekly worship at The Branches is held every Wednesday at 11 am from September through May. All are welcome to "come as you are" for this weekly service of Prayer, Song and Eucharist.

From Ecclesia Ministries - common cathedral
Ecclesia is an "Outdoor" congregation that meets on the public park space of Boston Common, adjacent to the Episcopal Cathedral of St Paul.

Pastor Mary reflects on today's outdoor church:
I notice "C" most Sundays. He's on Boston Common when I arrive at 11:30 and leaves before worship begins at 1:00. We haven't talked much. He's one of the quiet and consistent members. Today, when I arrived on the Common, I noticed C sitting in the pews (a.k.a. on the park bench) with someone new. I greeted them both and asked how they were feeling. The new person said, "Hungry! I'm really hungry."This wasn't a surprise. Many people attend our lunch-time fellowship and receive their first meal of the day. I offered lemonade and confirmed lunch was on the way. I didn't want to increase their expectations, and said, "It's a simple lunch. Just a sandwich and snacks. Nothing special." Suddenly, C sat up straight and spoke with a conviction that I hadn't previously seen. "What do you mean, "a simple lunch"? It's not simple! We are together. Together! Every week we are together.  And anyone can come and eat with us. A sandwich and a snack for everyone.  God makes this place for us (for us!) so we can have lunch together. That is NOT simple."…

I am regularly humbled by the power, love, and hope within this community.  We are building the Kingdom of God not with buildings or fancy lunches.  This Kingdom is built by being together. And we are together every Sunday. Together!

Mary Jane Eaton