Feeding bodies and souls at our weekly free community Friday Soup Kitchen
Begun over 20 years ago, dedicated volunteers and partnering local churches and individuals are preparing and distributing hot, nutritious meals as part of the community feeding ministry of Central United Methodist Church in downtown Beaver Falls
Usually we serve a hot meal like pork chops, potatoes, vegetables, and bread – and we always have soup for lunch on Tuesdays during cold months. But recent weeks have been different because of concerns about coronavirus. We’ve had to convert from dining in our Fellowship Hall to a take-out-only arrangement from our Fellowship Hall door so we can practice social distancing.
We don’t want to forget the folks in our community – the people that we know, and new faces that we are meeting during this time – and we want them to know that we will reach out in faith to help them.
With a weekly worship service in recent years of less than 20 dedicated souls, we have been blessed to partner with area congregations and other volunteers in order to maintain and expand our community feeding outreach.
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, we were providing about 13,000 meals to our community each year. Now, with many folks unable to work due to the stay-at-home orders, the number of meals that we are providing has skyrocketed to an annual rate of over 36,000 meals. That’s stretching our finances and volunteers to the breaking point, even as the need for food continues to grow.
In addition to lunch on Tuesday, our dedicated volunteers and partners provide dinners on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as breakfast on the first two Saturdays of each month.
Our outreach is good for people who don’t have the necessary things to make do. Those who are economically disadvantaged are even more disadvantaged now because of the coronavirus pandemic, and folks who didn’t used to struggle a week or two ago are struggling now, so, if we can do anything to help them, that is what we want to do.
Like our congregation and the congregations of our partners, a lot of our usual volunteer workers are elderly, which means they’re at high risk of getting COVID-19, so we are now relying on our younger volunteers and partners to help carry the load during this unprecedented time.
There may have been changes in how the food is distributed at Central Church, but the focus of the ministry remains the same.
Our community feeding outreach ministry is a collaborative effort of Central Church, several additional area churches, and other kind-hearted folks in the community, so, it really is about bringing people together to support and lift up folks in our community.
Volunteers now wear masks and gloves and do their best to maintain social distancing by keeping six feet between themselves and community members. The need to do so is vitally important but even after nearly a month people are still adjusting to the new normal.
In the midst of this pandemic, we could feel our world getting smaller and smaller, even as we’ve done a lot of telephone calls, e-mails and texts to check on our family members, members of our congregation, and friends. We need to be face-to-face even if that means being at a six-foot distance with people. We need to get our hands engaged for Jesus. Despite all the work required to provide meals, our days and evenings of preparation for each meal have enlivened our spirits again.
Our Church ladies serving a free, hot lunch to the community on “Soup Tuesdays”
People coming to Central Church for food smile at the love, kindness, and generosity that is all around them, even though chilling rain falls on many days.
The outreach has also impacted the lives of the volunteers and partners who come here each week. It means that people are still reaching out into ministry no matter what is going on in the community, and that they’re willing and able to come out and help despite what’s going on.
Jesus says that there is hope. Jesus says that when we go through the grave, we come out the other side, and there is new life on the other side. We firmly believe that whenever the fog lifts from this COVID-19 pandemic, we will have been in this crucible of discipleship and we will emerge as resurrection people.
As we pray for one another, continue to wash our hands frequently, clean our homes and workspaces, and practice social distancing, the ways that we are in ministry are changing, but the need for us to minister to and with people remains the same.
As believers, we have to be the hands and the feet of Christ in our community. Even when it’s uncomfortable or it makes us afraid to go forth, we are called to spread the love of Jesus wherever we go.