Churches serve one last community meal
After five years and no doubt thousands of servings of Jell-O Farmington's community meals have reached their final course.
Lord of Life Lutheran Church will host the final meal in the series at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at Farmington Lutheran Church.
Farmington's churches started offering the then-weekly meals in August of 2003 in an attempt to reach out to the community's growing Hispanic population. The meals never really reached their intended target, but over the years they became a popular gathering place for seniors and others in the community looking for a hot meal with a few friendly faces.
The meals have remained popular over the years. Sandy Glau, the parish director for pastoral life at St. Michael's Catholic Church, said about 120 people attended the last meal hosted by St. Michael's. Meals drew from 85 to 120 people on a regular basis. That number has remained mostly steady despite an increasingly troubled economy, Glau said.
Over the years, though, the churches that provided food for the meals began to drop out. The group went to a twice-monthly schedule a few years ago when two churches left. When Faith United Methodist Church and Crossroads Church stopped participating recently it became too difficult to keep things going.
Outside groups such as the Farmington Rotary occasionally helped provide meals, but none ever became regular contributors.
"We'd like to keep it going but we just don't have the people power and the church power to keep it going," Glau said. "We always had to go out to find groups to fill in spaces and that was hard."
Over the years the meals became what Lord of Life pastor Jamie Thompson described as a celebration of community. For some of the people who attended the community meal was perhaps a rare chance at a hot meal. For others, it was an opportunity to keep in contact with longtime friends.
"I'll walk around the table and people will say, 'I've known these people for 25 years in this community,'" Thompson said. "A large portion of the people who come out on a Thursday are people who would otherwise be eating alone."
The meals also were a way to build community within the churches that hosted them. Church volunteers were responsible for making and serving each of the meals.
Glau said she enjoyed the sense of community the meals helped preserve.
"I enjoyed the volunteers that would come and put this meal together, but I loved going around and just visiting with people," Glau said. "They're just a good-hearted group of people."
Lord of Life is the official host for this week's final dinner but each of the three remaining churches will provide a course. Lord of Life will provide the entree, St. Michael's salads and Farmington Lutheran dessert.