Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All Are Hungry in Christian Community

As I sit in CT on the night before Thanksgiving, watching to make sure a pot of sweet potatoes cooking for tomorrow doesn't boil over, I'm thinking a whole lot about what it means to feed the hungry in Christian community.  I often say we're all hungry, we're all really hungry...  Whether we're physically hungry, hungry to be remembered and accepted or (as we all are) hungry for the gospel, Christian community is a place where we can be hungry together, and feed each other as well.

Just this past week, amidst the flood of papers and assignments that is a fact of life the week before Thanksgiving vacation at seminary, I took two breaks for dinners where Christian community was definitely on the menu.  As part of my ongoing fieldwork with Lutheran Advocacy Ministries of PA, I attended two "empty bowl dinners" held at Arcadia University and Chestnut Hill, both to benefit a great ministry organization called Interfaith Hospitality Network.  The "empty bowl dinner" is an absolutely amazing fundraising idea where clay bowls are donated by local artisans (or school kids in art class) and are then used to eat a whole lot of soup donated by local restaurants.  I wasn't just there for a bowl of soup though (despite really enjoying a few)... my main goal was getting folks to sign a postcard campaign asking Mayor Nutter to develop a hunger plan for the City of Philadelphia.  Despite being a city where one in four residents are hungry, Philadelphia currently doesn't have specific goals to work toward on the issue.

Through a coalition of City Soup, Philabundance, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, LAMPa and other local organizations, thirty thousands advocacy postcards have already been sent out to local congregations and other groups.  Due to the success of the campaign, twenty thousand more postcards have been printed.  If you're at all interested in getting your congregation or organization involved with the campaign, please send me an email at or simply post a comment to the blog.

From the many conversations I had over two empty bowl dinners, I learned that the petition campaign is doing a lot more than just advocating for a hungry plan in Philadelphia... it's reminding folks how much the church really matters to this city, and how much this city matters to the church as well.  I spoke with a number of people who were 'spiritual' but not involved with a specific congregation who said it was amazing that organized religion was moving beyond directly feeding people and advocating for ending hunger on a systematic level.  I even talked with a couple families who said that the petition campaign was a great reminder to get involved with a congregation again.  Most profoundly, one person told me that they were "hungry for a church that does what matters."

Christian community is a place where hungry people come to support each other in whatever their hunger is and be fed... by food, by fellowship and by the gospel.  By asking folks to sign orange postcards at two empty bowl dinners, I definitely experienced Christian community, and that's something I'm truly thankful for.  Looks like that pot might finally be about to boil over... have a blessed Thanksgiving!

God's peace,

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