McMINNVILLE, OR (March 23, 2011) – Hungry families in this community have the opportunity to eat a delicious soup and salad meal every Sunday night at McMinnville Covenant Church as part of a new ministry that has excited the congregation.
“The church just rallied behind the idea,” says Ted Yuen, co-pastor. “It hearkened back to the early days of the church. We built so the kitchen could be used by the community.”
The first meal was served February 20. More than 130 congregation members volunteer with the ministry. “That’s more than half our weekly attendance,” Yuen says. Roughly 30 volunteers are needed to serve each evening.
“What’s especially exciting is that we’re partnering with the community,” Yuen says.
The church started the ministry to fill a gap during the week when dinners were not available. The local St. Barnabas Soup Kitchen offers dinner four nights a week, and two churches serve meals during the rest of the week.
The idea originated with Howie Harkema, who oversees the St. Barnabas ministry, when he approached Yuen to ask whether the Covenant church would be interested in serving the meals. The church council and the rest of the congregation were eager to respond to the need.
The congregation raised $6,000 during December to provide seed funding for the ministry, Yuen says. People continue to donate.
A drawback has been the lack of public transportation on Sunday evenings – the city’s transportation service runs every night except Sundays.
First Baptist Church will begin using their church vehicles to drive the bus routes on Sunday night to pick up the diners, Yuen says.
Yuen says the congregation treats the people as honored guests. The room where meals are served is nicely decorated. Church members also received training on how to serve and eat alongside their invited guests.
The church served 47 guests the first night and the number has fluctuated, Yuen says. More people dine at the church during the last two weeks of the month as money from government support checks runs out.
The ministry also has been a way to develop a heightened sense of community within the congregation and provide families a way to minister together. Yuen points to his seven-year-old daughter as an example – “She loves it because she gets to serve and take orders.”
Covenant church member Robin Swenson is overseeing the ministry. She says the ministry exemplifies the congregation’s commitment to living its mission statement, “Seeking God’s heart for our neighborhood, we offer a warm nourishing place of hospitality where every person is recognized as a child of God.”
Noting that the ministry is not something the church had planned itself, Yuen says, “It’s really been a move of the Spirit. It’s amazing.”