St. James’ Episcopal Church has participated in free community suppers since the early 1990s. St. James’ takes the 4th Friday of the month because that is when the need seems to be the greatest – near the end of the month. As a result of this schedule, we don’t serve suppers in November or December because they usually fall near the holidays and many of our parishioners are away. We have offered suppers for so long that it is one of our biggest outreach ministries.
The menu is planned a month in advance and members of the congregation sign up to bring various needed items from entrees to desserts. All of the food is provided and prepared by parishioners. Some folks sign up to set up for the dinner or clean up afterward. Many parishioners also attend the dinners because it is a community supper, and sitting, visiting, and eating with our guests is as important as making a dish. We’ve also had several occasions when a guest will bring a dessert or drinks to share with others for the dinner and that act of giving back is always touching.
The suppers are served at 6pm, but it is not uncommon for us to have guests arrive as early as 3:30 to come in from the cold or heat and have a cup of coffee. There are conversations and sometimes card games with those arriving early. Suppers always begin with a prayer of thanks –usually offered by our priest, deacon, or verger. We all enjoy the food and conversation – the suppers are something of a social event for the congregation, which assures we have lots of help cleaning up after the meal.
Over the years there have been a few suppers when it doesn’t appear that we have enough people signed up to bring food, but we’ve always had folks who come forward and bring food. We always serve our suppers and our guests have always been fed and welcomed. A few times, when it looked like we wouldn’t have enough food, we end up with plenty, like of the parable of the loaves and fishes – it sometimes feels like a miracle occurs at the suppers. We continue this ministry, not only because the need is very evident in the Old Town area, but also because it is a special feeling for all involved.