Still Church Together- Still Serving God's World
Shared by Rev. Steven Peeler, Interim Pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Grand Island
Food Pantries are one of the many ways congregations in the Nebraska Synod work to serve their communities and to show love to their neighbors. Messiah Lutheran in Grand Island is one of those congregations helping their neighbors in need. Their Saturday Supper ministry began in 2005 and continues during this time of physical distancing, just in a new way.
Before the pandemic, Messiah was serving approximately 200 meals every Saturday evening in the church fellowship hall. Meals were also being delivered to home-bound parishioners by volunteers. At the height of the pandemic, Messiah continued to provide this ministry and served about 600 meals on those Saturdays. Now, as businesses begin to reopen and members of the community begin to return to work, the amount of meals served each weekend has decreased to around 400. And for the last several weeks the congregation has continued to serve close to 400 meals consistently.
Since this ministry began, meals were served cafeteria-style and patrons were invited to dine in the fellowship hall. But with the current safety guidelines, the distribution has completely changed. Hot meals are now prepared in the church kitchen and placed in take-out containers. Recipients drive by the south entrance of the church facility where volunteers place the take-out meals in their cars. Patrons do not exit their vehicles at all, much like a fast food drive thru. To go with their hot meal, they receive pre-packed kits of bread and desserts.
The patrons then drive around to the north entrance of Messiah's parking lot, where another team of volunteers place refrigerated foods in their vehicles. The congregation has a refrigerated food storage area in the garage that can conveniently store items needing to be kept cool until they can be distributed.
To keep serving the community, Messiah has been able to partner locally with businesses such as Panera, US Foods, Big Apple Bagels, HyVee, Supersaver, and CHI St Francis hospital. In addition to these partnerships, they buy portions of the hot meals from local restaurants as another way of supporting their neighbors.
Volunteers are able to put together complete meals from donations and purchased items, with financial grants covering the cost of the purchases. These grants have also assisted with the purchases of food prep/storage items and other much needed supplies.
The Saturday Suppers at Messiah Lutheran are just another example of how the congregations of the Nebraska Synod continue to serve God's world and to thrive as church together.