Continuing to Break Bread, Even During a Pandemic
July 23, 2020
Rev. Cassie Sexton-Riggs, Union Avenue Christian Church
Breaking Bread has been a part of the Litchfield community for over 20 years. On Monday nights, First Baptist Church in Litchfield, IL opens their doors to feed anyone who might need a meal. Each week, different churches take turns serving these meals. Our church, Union Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) serves the meal on the last Monday of every month. On average we serve 75–100 people every week.
We have a faithful team of volunteers who go shopping, cook, serve, and clean up after the meal. Many of our volunteers are in the high-risk category for contracting COVID-19, so, when the pandemic shelter-in-place mandate came they were unable to volunteer. Still, we wanted to make sure that those who needed a meal were fed. For many, this meal helps make their food stamps go further, or just helps stretch the dollars for their family. First Baptist Church was willing to use their kitchen for meal prep, but did not feel comfortable having outside groups come in to cook. So, they took on the charge of preparing meals every week for carry out. But that meant they needed volunteers that could be runners from the kitchen to setup drive-through and walk-up stations in the parking lot. Many of our churches didn’t have enough volunteers that were not in the high-risk category, so we needed a new solution for these tasks.
To combat these challenges, the president of the Ministerial Alliance, Jon Magnuson (Beacon Church), came up a great idea we called Serving Servers. We hired servers from local restaurants who could use the extra help to run food to cars. It was a way for churches to help servers and still allow them to have some dignity as they were working for the pay. People who need the money to help make sure their bills continued to get paid had a little extra income during this difficult time, and our community that counted on this meal still received one on Monday nights. It was a win-win solution, right?
However, in order to carry this idea out, that meant we needed funding. The Litchfield Ministerial Alliance approached a local hospital for a donation, they agreed to give us $500 towards this cause if we could get someone to match it. A church in the Ministerial Alliance stepped up and matched the funds. But these funds would only get us through the rest of March and part of April, and we could see that shelter-in-place would last much longer. So, UACC offered to apply to for a COVID-19 NBA Response Grant to help us double our funds and hopefully help get us through the shutdown of restaurants and to a place where regular scheduling could occur. We were awarded the NBA grant! Since then, many of the servers said working in this program was the only way they were able to keep their bills paid and their families fed. We’ve also seen a huge increase in the number of meals Breaking Bread has been serving. During this time, we have fed between 150–175 people every Monday night. Through the blessing of the NBA grant we were able to keep a vital ministry going in the community, help people continue to have a somewhat stable income, and brought people together around the table! What better way to be Disciples in the world!
As the health and social services general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the National Benevolent Association partners with congregations, regions, general ministries, and a variety of Disciples-related health and social service providers to create communities of compassion and care. Founded in 1887 by six women responding to the needs of the day and on their doorsteps, for more than 130 years the NBA has continued to serve "the least of these." Learn more at www.nbacares.org.