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Christian Life Church will hold at least three free community meals

Children take a seat on the bleachers to eat at last week's Community Unity meal at Christian Life Church. The church estimates 60 to 65 people attended the first of three monthly meals.

With plates of spaghetti and trays piled high with brownies, Christian Life Church is reaching out a hand to the community.

On March 27 the church held the first of what will be at least three monthly community meals, inviting in anybody looking for something to eat or a little company. The meals -- what the church is calling its Community Unity meals -- will continue on the last Wednesday in April and May and could continue beyond that if the response is good, pastor Kent Boyum said.

"We wanted to offer something to the community that's free," Boyum said last week. "We were trying to think of any way we could bless people in the area."

The church settled on a plan for community meals after discussions with 360 Communities, which runs food shelves in Farmington and Rosemount, among other services. Since January, a team of about 15 church members has been visiting community meals put on by other area churches to get an idea how to set things up, what to serve and how to make sure things run smoothly.

The church also put the word out to area food shelves, county agencies and anyone else they thought would know someone in need of a good meal.

Farmington churches have collaborated before on community meals, but Christian Life was never part of that group. Last week's meal was an entirely new experience.

"This is actually our trial run," Boyum said. "We weren't sure how many to expect."

So far, things seem to be going well. Boyum estimated Christian Life drew 60 to 65 visitors for last week's meal. Some came from Farmington. Others came in groups from elsewhere in Dakota County, shuttled to the church by county agencies.

Once at the church, visitors went through the same cafeteria line used by students at Christian Life School. Church members piled spaghetti and salad and garlic bread onto their plates. There were brownies and Rice Krispie bars and juice on another table. At one end of the room, which also serves as the school's gym, kids shot baskets with a variety of balls.

Boyum was happy with what he saw.

"We didn't know if there would be five people or 500, but it's beautiful to have this many families," Boyum said.

Everyone who came to the meal left with a gift bag of personal hygiene products.

There were about two dozen church members on hand to help serve. That bringing people together is another benefit of the meals.

"We have found that the more people from the family we can get serving together, the stronger it builds unity for us," Boyum said. "We've used the word community because unity is the last part of the word.... We want unity not only in the community but in our own church family."

Christian Life hopes to hold one of its upcoming meals outside if weather allows. The next two meals will take place at 5 p.m. April 24 and May 29. The church is located at 6300 212th St.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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