Oops. We Fed Someone.
Sunday, October 14, we began our South Loop Campus Community Meals.
Since I began at SLCM toward the end of this summer, this was the day we were building toward—the first one—the day when all the students would turn out—in droves!
I had several one-on-one conversations with students and faculty, hung fliers, passed out fliers in the streets to students. Personally invited them....
I announced it on facebook, on the blog, by email, etc.
I was excited. And nervous. And excited.
I showed up ready to talk with some students. About meaning. About Life. About school. About God.
I showed up ready to pray, and ready to share a meal.
Ellen brought the food. It looked good. And smelled good. Perfect!
We were scheduled to start at 7.
It was 6:30... 6:45...
The table was set, the tea was on...
The first night ever....and eighteen people showed up!
That's a lot of people.
Of course, none of them were students.
They were folks who'd seen the sign. In the window. In the church bulletin.
And came, every one of them, for a free meal.
My initial feeling was “oops...”
Screwed that one up.
This is suppose to be campus ministry, and we're just serving food to people who are hungry.
Never mind that morning's scripture about caring for the poor and vulnerable.
About giving up what's comfortable to us so that we might better follow Christ.
Forget all of that.
We had a mission to the students. And this threw a wrench right in the middle of it.
But... That couldn't be right either.
What would Jesus say to the pastor who thought he or she messed up by feeding folks?
I talked it out with Ellen later that week.
She had a similar struggle.
There's something here. Just not sure quite what.
We decided to continue the meal as scheduled. We'll see what happens...
Regardless, what we were doing was, after all, Christ's work. It was ministry.
The next week, two college students and a seminarian from my church, First Trinity, showed up for the meal. (Charlie, Kacie, and Joe). There were less folks in attendance, and, because we had had an event earlier that day, we had lots and lots and lots of food.
I shared a reflection. We introduced ourselves.
Ellen presented the food.
We prayed. We ate. We chatted.
After the meal, we had a bunch of food left.
(That very seldom happens, by the way.)
So, on whim,
Let's pack it up, and hand it out.
We made sandwiches, putting them in any plastic bag we could find—grocery bags, recycled packaging, etc.—this wasn't in the plans.
We put cake in Styrofoam bowls.
Whatever other food we had, we found some container for, whatever that container was really “meant for.”
And then we went.
There had to be someone who was hungry and who'd want it. We knew this as a fact.
Along the way, we encountered Ashley.
She's a long time friend of Grace Place, where SLCM is located, and was at the dinner the previous week.
She was hanging in the park, before she had headed out to get some fast food. We saved her from the BigMac with a ham sandwich, and she took us to where she knew there were other people who'd appreciate a sandwich or two.
After her friends took their share, they sent us to the library, where, they instructed us, we were sure to find more folks who might be in need of a sandwich and some cake.
Everywhere we went, we were sent along,
Until finally we ran out of sandwiches.
Thus began our now weekly routine.
Liturgy And Sandwiches.
The structure of Christian Liturgy (the way we worship in church), that I (a Lutheran) share in common with many Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, etc., has four basic movements:
In church, we gather with music, with prayer, with an invocation, confession, forgiveness, and so on. We then hear the word proclaimed—in the scripture readings, and in the preaching and proclamation. We share a meal in holy communion, and we are then sent by way of song, prayer, blessing, and commissioning: “Go in peace. Love and serve the Lord.”
Though there may be no incense at our community meals (so far), and, as of yet, no Book of common Prayer or Evangelical Lutheran Worship,
What we are doing is, quite deeply, worship.
And, literally. We are sent...
Sent with sandwiches.
Fed so that we might feed.
Strengthened by the meal so that we might serve.
In real time and real place, we are giving students and friends, (and those in need who gather with us—that is, our sisters and brothers) a chance to live out the liturgy.
To perform the work of the people performing the work of God.
This meal and this sending, as we grow in love for God,
and love for all of humanity.
Our next meetings are 12/2, 12/19, 1/20, 1/27, 2/3, 2/10, 2/17, and 2/24.
7:00PM. Every time.
All are welcome to share in a meal.
All are welcome to deliver several meals to the streets.
South Loop Campus Ministry
637 S. Dearborn St., Chicago
Peace and Love!
Rev. Tom Gaulke, pastor
First Lutheran Church of the Trinity and South Loop Campus Ministry, Chicago