St Johns Church Peace Meal Project USA Caring

St. John’s Church Peace Meal Project, USA

Thanks to Phyllis Jacobson from St. John’s Church for this story.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, in St. Louis MO, is one of the oldest congregations in the Diocese of Missouri. It got a new lease on life in 2004, with a newly appointed full-time rector who was also a community organiser. She had a burden to open the church to the community and to share food as part of this.

In her own words: “On September 30, 2006, we began a free fellowship meal for all, which we now serve every Saturday from 4:00 – 5:30 pm in the Parish Hall.

We call this meal program the Peace Meal Project because we know that a meal is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing poverty, inequality, and loneliness.

But, we also believe that sharing a fellowship meal together brings us closer to the Reign of God that we hope for – a community of justice, peace, and dignity for all people.”

“Sharing a fellowship meal together brings us closer to the Reign of God that we hope for – a community of justice, peace, and dignity for all people.”

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA Caring

From just one congregation involved, the program has grown to involve eleven congregations: most Episcopal, but also Roman Catholic, Mennonite, and Presbyterian. These serve on a rotating basis, so each group comes about five times a year.

Most of these are suburban congregations, so participation in PeaceMeal affords them an opportunity to interact with ‘city’ folks. There are also two special groups, one a family group and one a Scout group, which take one week a year.

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA CaringEach week, one of our ‘Food-safe’ certified St. John’s members co-ordinates the programme and supervises the volunteer teams as they prepare, cook, serve, and clean up.

Usually one set of workers from the volunteer congregation cooks and sets up and another serves and cleans up. Since all involved work on a rotating basis, burnout is largely avoided.

Each coordinator plans the menu of the week, taking note of what is available in the pantry and what has been cooked recently – so there is lots of variety. The coordinator shops or takes advantage of a volunteer ‘shopper’ and, if desired, a ‘menu planner’ too.

Besides the wonderful volunteer involvement, many contribute toward the cost of the meal program. The Diocese of Missouri Task Force for the Hungry has been a major supporter. Also the churches involved and individuals who care about this ministry have helped greatly.

One of the congregations also has a farm, the Good Shepherd Farm. Each week the PeaceMeal program is notified about what vegetables are available and the coordinator incorporates these into the menu.

One Saturday, when parishioners from Good Shepherd had volunteered to prepare and serve the meal, one of the older guests asked about the salad.

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA CaringWhen she learned that the ingredients were from Shepherd Farm and that some of the gardeners were also preparing and serving the meal that day, she asked to speak with one of the gardeners.

She wanted to say how much she appreciated their efforts. With tears in her eyes, she said that until that day, she had not had a fresh radish since she was a child, when her grandmother grew them.

Imagine going decades without a fresh radish… it also brought a giant lump to the volunteer’s throat.

Another great contribution comes from the Panera Bread Company. Each Friday night a volunteer picks up the leftover bread from one of the stores. The breads are used at the meal but most are bagged for the guests to take home.

Here are a few comments from the guests, many of whom do not have a regular source for good food:

“I love, love, love Peace Meal! I made great friends while having great meals. These people at St. John’s are my best friends.”

“I really love Peace Meal, particularly the overall dining experience of making everything interrelated from prayer, fellowship, Bible sessions at evening prayer, as well as wholesome foods that are very nutritious…”

“I recently moved back here after many years and know very few people.  This generous setting is a wonderful way to fight isolation and find friends.  Your church is a life – giver. “

A couple named Mark and Dave are regular volunteers and financial contributors from the St. John’s congregation. They had this to say about the Peace Meal Project:

“We both grew up in homes where hospitality and food were readily shared with family and friends.  Somehow there was always enough to share even though neither one of our families was very well off at all.

When we got married and began our own household, we each felt committed to that same sense of hospitality – it has always been important to us that our home is a welcoming home and a place where there seems to always be enough…

The Peace Meal involvement for us is a natural extension of that hospitality and sharing the blessings that we have been given with those who have less.  It is a mutual benefit as it reminds us to be aware of a sense of “enough-ness” and to count our blessings every day.”

Find out more about the St. John’s Peace Meal Project

If you want more information about the Peace Meal Project at St. John’s church, please visit the St. John’s Church website.

Read more inspiring stories like this in the Caring category of the Peacemeal website.

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