‘Welcome Table’ offers food for the soul

Food and fellowship. An unbeatable combination.

The second Tuesday of each month (the next on July 14), St. John’s United Methodist on Gibson Road offers a free lunch to anybody who wants to drop in. It’s called the Welcome Table.

And if you’re wondering just how hungry you have to be to take advantage of this gracious invitation, just relax. Nobody’s checking your resume or your financial statement. They don’t care if you’re a Methodist or a Baptist or even whether or not you attend church. It’s free. It’s good. And it’s out there waiting for hungry folks to show up.

This event began four years ago when the women of St. John’s decided to reach out to the surrounding community with this act of Christian charity. They “sort-of” had in mind targeting people who were really hungry and possibly were in financial straits and needed help with food. But what has happened far exceeds their expectation.

“I feel like we are doing what God wants us to do by inviting people to eat lunch,” said Anne Tindall.

Nobody thought that hot dogs with all the trimmings, slaw and chips would become popular as “soul food.”

An average month for the lunch event includes about 170 plates served to some who may be short on cash, but also to folks who are not seeking to calm a hungry stomach, but to feed their souls. Folks craving fellowship, or the sight of a friendly face, or a chance to catch up on what’s happening in the congregation or in the neighborhood.

Of course, Anne and Jane Hinson, two from a cadre of regular volunteers, have stories to share about the folks who are regulars at the Welcome Table.

One older lady told a volunteer, “It’s been a good while since we had bread. Thank you.’”

Another regular is a woman who always presses a dollar or two into the hand of a server, Anne said.

Some arrive as early as 10:30 a.m. for the event that’s billed to begin at noon. Sitting around talking is the soul food they are looking for.

The Welcome Table works in tandem with the church’s Food Pantry, headed by Ken Haney who coordinates pick-up from the Aberdeen branch of the Food Bank of North Carolina with his truck and trailer several times a month. No dollars from the church are required to provide this food because of a grant from FEMA and private contributions, Haney said.

The Food Pantry, an ongoing church project for the past 10 to 11 years, provided food to 7,000 people last year, distributing a total of 120,000 pounds of food.

On the fourth Wednesday of the month, July 22, the Food Pantry will open at 8 a.m. and people may drive by the storage area behind the fellowship hall on the church campus to pick up a bag. This month each bag will include a minimum of 3 pounds of frozen ground turkey, pinto beans, rice, chicken broth, soup, canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, juice and sweets like doughnuts or cookies.

“Words can’t express what this means to me,” Ken said. “I am so fortunate to see people come and to be blessed. It brings tears to your eyes. This is the way my mama raised me.”

He is a member of the fourth generation of his family to attend St. John’s Church.

As you might expect, this church has regular Sunday worship at 11 a.m., including Children’s Church for six to twelve children, depending on the Sunday, taught by volunteers from the congregation.

Visitors and those seeking a church home are always welcomed by a small, but active congregation of United Methodists, carrying on God’s work in the world by feeding God’s people.

Eat up, friends!

Contact Flo Johnston at [email protected] or call 910-361-4135.

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