All Things New…
notes from Pastor Katie ~ May, 2018
A Place at the Table
For nearly thirty years on Saturday nights, tables, chairs, and places have been set in the same place in our Fellowship Hall, awaiting guests. For nearly thirty years, our church has had the opportunity to be in ministry with our hungry neighbors.
Quite often when I meet someone who has been a guest at our Soup Kettle, they will tell me ours is “the good one.” When I ask what makes it so “good,” I’m usually told about the real plates and silverware and about the friendliness of the folks doing the serving. “We’re treated like people, and it feels good,” one neighbor told me.
I have also heard folks who regularly serve at Soup Kettle speak with gratitude about the people they have met there and the opportunity to serve that they so appreciate. “I truly feel like we are in ministry with our neighbors,” one leader has told me. We may gather as a church for worship on Sunday mornings, but in our Fellowship Hall on Saturday nights there is also a community that gathers to break bread together. And I know it is not just the “clients” who come away feeling grateful or blessed.
On May 20th, we will celebrated in worship the nearly three decades of this ministry with our neighbors. Over time, leaders have changed, the participation of our congregation has waxed and waned, the involvement of other partner congregations has begun, and guests have come and gone, but the thing that remains the same is that opportunity to provide not simply a meal but also dignity, respect, and care, as community is created with our hungry neighbors.
While several for many years carried the lion’s share of responsibilities, putting on a meal every Saturday night of the year for 50-100 people is a ministry that takes many hands. For a long time, Leon and Carol Miller were stalwart pillars that held the Soup Kettle ministry together with their love and care. For the past number of years, Jon Heggen has put in a tremendous amount of hours coordinating this ministry. Even before Jon was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer, he and others began to make changes in order to transition Soup Kettle ministry responsibilities to a team of people.
These days, Cheryl Gray is serving as an interim coordinator of Soup Kettle, while each weekend teams of supervisors oversee the planning and serving of the meal, including Chris Douglas, Scott Douglas, Dave Gibble, Donna Gibble, Josh Harbeck, Kendra Harbeck, Dan McFadden, Jim Lehman, Debbie Noffsinger, Cheryl Gray, and Tom Trengove. A number of other folks in our congregation serve in other important roles that keep Soup Kettle running including Marcus Velazquez, Paul Teetor, Carol Miller, Carol Swayne, John Lengle, Harold Graves, Dale Bernas, Gay Bouwmeester, Paul Bouwmeester, and our endlessly creative cook, Tony Miller (he’s the kind of guy who can make something tasty and filling from pretty much whatever’s in the pantry). This list (which is likely not exhaustive), doesn’t even begin to include the teams of cooks and servers from our five partner churches: the Apostolic Christian Church of Elgin, Immanuel UCC of Bartlett, Our Savior Methodist of Schaumburg, St. John’s Lutheran of Elgin, St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Huntley, and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church of St. Charles. On May 20th, we had the opportunity to celebrate this ministry of which so many have been a part and to bless its ongoing work.
I think it’s fitting that we are celebrating Soup Kettle on the same Sunday as Pentecost when Christians traditionally celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit among the disciples and mark the beginning of the church. I find that the gospels are full of accounts of Jesus gathering around tables with his disciples, with strangers and friends, with people society admired and people society scorned. That is my vision of a beautiful, vital, and healthy church, where everyone may find a place at the table and meet the Holy Spirit moving powerfully among us. I had the opportunity this past week to gather around other tables with nearly 100 Church of the Brethren clergy from across the Midwest for a Biblical Authority Conference. Lutheran Seminary Professor of Biblical Preaching Karoline Lewis talked to us about the lenses, experiences, and worldviews we all bring as humans to any reading of the Bible. Then we shared conversation around our tables across diverse points of view. The mood was friendly and compassionate even if there was not conformity of thought or experience. I was glad I went, and I left feeling hopeful for all communities who experience division, including our own denomination.
Folks in the Church of the Brethren often value relationships so highly that we sometimes joke about community being the fourth person of the Holy Trinity, right up there with the Creator, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, many of us believe how we treat each other is a witness to how we believe God to be. Our own stone lintel over our church’s front Highland Avenue facing door reads “for the glory of God and our neighbors’ good.” When we see the hungry being fed, enemies breaking bread together, the suffering finding care, and the unloved finding a place at the table, I think we can witness a glimpse of the Beloved Community God yearns for us to help in building.
However, I think trouble comes when we confuse God with our human communities. For sometimes our communities are fractured. Sometimes there is conflict. Sometimes we just plain let each other down. In those times, I think it is helpful to remember that while communities of care can show us God’s love, they are still made of flawed human beings. I think it can be helpful to remember that the God of the universe is far more perfect, powerful, and loving than our human communities could ever be.
Cappadocian Father Basil of Caesarea, who lived in the third century, famously imagined the three persons of the holy trinity as dancing together throughout eternity in community and love. Even our most loving human communities may miss a step here and there or even stumble to the ground, falling short of the sacred choreography of the three persons of God. Yet, I believe we are blessed when we get back up and try to join in again, repairing relationships, practicing those steps together, and settng a place at our tables for each one.
Because aren’t we all hungry neighbors? Don’t we all seek to be fed, to serve others, to find supportive communities, to build strong relationships, to dance in rhythm with others (at least in spirit), and to know we too have a place at the table? I believe something in us is healed and made whole when we find these opportunities to be fed in community. I believe that in those moments we can know the love of God and share that love with others. As we celebrate our Soup Kettle ministry and Pentecost this month, I pray that as a church we may continue to set places for “everyone born” to feel valued, cared for, and fed by the love of God.
Sunday worship service at 9:30 a.m.
Fellowship time at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday School Classes are not held during the summer months but will resume in September.
Wednesday Morning Bible Study meets at 10 a.m. each week. We will study the scripture text that will be used for our worship service the following Sunday. Join us for a spirited, open discussion.