"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's great hunger meet."
This was the writing prompt recently for a Lenten reflection. (Spirit to Spirit: A Writing Community on Facebook.)
What identifies St. Stephen's to our community better than food?
One of the things that attracted me to St. Stephen's was its involvement in the community through the food pantry. This wasn't church with a food closet to feed the few who might dare to knock on the door and ask the pastor for food. This was a church that actively invited people through our doors to serve a community need.
Eighteen years ago when I started working on statistics for the food pantry, St. Stephen's distributed food to 200 families a month. Today the LCS Food Pantry at St. Stephens' distributes food to 200 families a week. That averages out to serving one client every 5 minutes. The pantry provides physical food for the hungry, and spiritual nourishment for the volunteers.
Our produce distribution on the first and third Wednesdays of the month brings people out of the cold of winter and the heat of summer to enjoy a respite in our worship spaces before receiving fresh fruits and vegetables.
Through our Empty Bowl Dinner we open our doors to community members interested in helping Family Promise and St. Stephen's food ministries. Food pantry clients have been invited to participate in the bounty that has been amassed each year. And like loaves and fishes, we've had enough to feed the hundreds who attend the dinner and still provide a feast for those attending our Stewardship Luncheon the next Sunday.
Our doors are open once a month to a Grocery Club, where food is distributed to a group of individuals.
We provide a meal each month to up to 200 people at Emmanuel Dining Room.
We’ve had a presence at the Cool Springs Farmers’ Market, not only providing food (pickles!) but surrounded by food.
We help provide a meal each quarter to Family Promise families.
Our doors are open on Wednesdays during Lent for simple suppers and the opportunity to join in worship.
Our doors are open on Easter morning for a community breakfast.
Have you seen our hospitality table on Sunday mornings? We've had a feast available after worship, plenty to share with the people of New Jerusalem as we gather over food and conversation.
And most important is the meal we offer every Sunday morning during worship, where Christ's presence is made known to us all through the celebration of communion.
The world's hungry, in body and spirit, have found a place to gather at St. Stephen's. And I believe that St. Stephen's has found its gladness in meeting that need.
- Ann Warner