I swiped this illustration from the Facebook feed of a friend (thanks, Lois) a while back and set it aside, figuring in might come in handy one day --- then got to thinking about it yesterday after sitting in on the December meeting of the Interchurch Council of Lucas County.
End of the Month Meals, by the way, are not an Interchurch Council program, although they do have ecumenical support. It is a free-standing program of First United Methodist Church, which also is among the largest of the congregations supporting the Council.
The idea behind the meals, open to all without question although aimed specifically at lower-income Lucas Countyans, is that those who live on fixed monthly stipends are likelier to run short during the winter --- with fuel bills to pay --- so could be in need of one square meal a day as months wind down. The free meals are served at the church from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday during the last weeks of November-March.
First Church also is the coordinating agency for the Salvation Army in Lucas County, disbursing funds raised by those bell-ringers we're all seeing here and there around town these days throughout the year to those in various kinds of need. Many of the ringers come from other Council congregations.
So that makes First Methodist the best example I know of in Lucas County of an individual congregation using its resources to walk the walk as prescribed in Matthew 25:35-40. You can look that up.
Anyhow, I usually don't attend Council meetings --- too busy/lazy --- but the December meeting was held at St. Andrew's and commenced as our weekly Lutheran-Episcopal Bible session study concluded (we get together once a week to talk about the lectionary readings we'll be hearing or reading in church on the following Sunday mornings).
So it was a simple matter to just remain seated --- and besides, there was free lunch.
I counted 15-20 people, including clergy from First Lutheran, First Christian, Sacred Heart, St. Andrew's, Russell's Faith United Methodist and First Methodist as well as lay representatives from First Presbyterian and others. Community of Christ is another consistent Council participant and other congregations come and go as enthusiasm waxes and wanes.
Much of the meeting was devoted to discussion of Ministry Center food bank operations --- the center and the food bank located there form the Council's major project and are staffed by Council-affiliated volunteers, including clergy.
The food bank serves more than 100 families made up of several hundred men, women and children every month and its services often mean that those who might otherwise go hungry don't. Matthew 25 again.
It is supported by a mix of contributions from Council member congregations, individuals and businesses (especially Hy-Vee), fund and grocery drives, grants, government aid and any other resource that can be located and utilized.
We also heard a little about a new program (not affiliated with the Council but not in any sense competing with the council's work either) operating within the high school and in part student-led that I'd like to know more about. It is not a "pantry" exactly, but more of a closet arrangement, offering useful items to young people who, for lack of a better term, might be called "misplaced."
These are students who due to varying circumstances have lost their homes and have been taken in by others. I asked for an estimate of the number of students who might qualify for this type of informal assistance and, as someone who grew up in a secure home with no doubts about where my next meal was coming from, was horrified. As we all should be. It's heart-breaking.
I'm still thinking about all I learned and heard while sitting through a meeting that lasted perhaps an hour and a half. Deciding to attend was one of the better decisions I've made as Christmastide approaches.