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Tuesday mornings in the kitchen: the closing of one needed resource opened many, many other doors.

Every Tuesday morning around 9:30 a.m., a group of people begin to gather in the kitchen at St. Andrew's, Owen Sound, Ont. We try not to be late so we can chatter about our week. What we have been up to, how the weather has been, what everyone's children and grandchildren are up to, where we have been this past week; rail at the price of gas, how to grow tomatoes, who is in the hospital, who is home from hospital; discuss local politics and upcoming concerts. We range in age from young children to seniors, and all are welcome, especially the best banana muffin maker in town. It really is the best time and we all look forward to it. Oh, yes, we gather to make sandwiches.

Last spring the local Salvation Army closed their soup kitchen. They felt their resources would be better spent concentrating on other outreach missions. They do so much in our community, men's hostel, food bank, two thrift stores, day care and elder care. The local ministerial association had been financially helpful but now it was time for them to be more involved. Quite a few ideas were discussed, such as getting a new location or starting a moveable feast by having downtown church's taking turns. A local church, The Victorious Living Centre, had a small lunch program for downtown folk already running and they soon found their numbers increasing. They are committed to feeding whoever is hungry. And will do so until Jesus comes. Our ministers felt until that time maybe the ministerial could help the VLC outreach and solve the soup kitchen dilemma. I approached as many local churches as possible, and now we have eight faith communities that deliver 12 loaves of sandwiches a day to the VLC.

I was in the grocery store (a place I seem to spend a great portion of my life) and was telling a friend about the fun we have making sandwiches on Tuesdays. She thought that was great except, it really wasn't about the people at St. Andrew's she said. It should be about the people we are feeding. I felt horrible. I was humbled in the produce section. I was thinking about us and not them. I went to my ministers and told them what she had said and how bad I felt. Scott Sinclair explained that it is very much about the fellowship around our kitchen table. God has brought us together for a reason and is present around the mixing of the eggs and the buttering of the bread. Ted Creen (we are blessed with two ministers) also felt that maybe God had a purpose in the closing of the soup kitchen. Now, all these churches are working together in our community for our community. I realized that's why those guys get the big bucks.

It is true. God is present around that table. I bring my father every Tuesday. He has Alzheimer's and it progressed over the summer. But he butters bread with flair. He looks forward to Tuesdays and when I pull into Summit Place Lodge he is always waiting out front for me. My husband is a dairy farmer and when he had an opportunity for a week of holidays this summer we wanted to jump at the chance but I worried about my dad. He has become very dependant on me. It was wonderful folk around that kitchen table that phoned him daily, picked him up on Tuesday so he could make sandwiches and visited him. That would not have happened without the soup kitchen closing. When one of the Tuesday regulars (a man in charge of opening cans) had knee surgery, we sent him a present when he got home, a plate of sandwiches. We have a young man at our church who is mantled and they are on a fixed income. He does all the dishes every Tuesday and takes home sandwiches. (And bananas, he really likes bananas.) Dad and I deliver our sandwiches to the VLC. This is a faith community that we never would have known existed had it not been for the closing of the soup kitchen. The folk that eat our sandwiches greet us warmly and treat my dad with dignity. The Pastor invited all participating churches for an appreciation dinner in October. They have been in Owen Sound for five years or so and this will be the first time a lot of people have gone through their doors. That would not have happened without the soup kitchen closing. I have brought the 17-year-old princess (our daughter, maybe you are familiar with the personality type) with me and she has made sandwiches and helped delivery them. Never would have happened had the soup kitchen not closed.

I will take my ministers' words to heart. God is present and at work around that table. Yes, we are doing what Jesus taught in Matthew 25. (You know: The sheep and the goats parable, you fed me when I was hungry.) But we are also getting so much more than we ever imagined. What a wonderful gift from God, the closing of a soup kitchen!

Jane Docherty is a member at St. Andrew's, Owen Sound, Ont., where she feels very lucky to have grown up.
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Title Annotation:mission knocks
Author:Docherty, Jane
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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