Today’s guest post is by Jo Lord. Jo recently completed C.L.A.S.S. 301 and is using her writing gift to serve Northminster.
The Idea that Started it All
It started with one very new idea in 2008. By 2011, it had grown to 150 volunteers, 250 guests, 23 turkeys, 12 cases of cranberry sauce, 200 pounds of green beans, 320 pounds of sweet potatoes and over 40 pies.
I’m talking about Northminster’s annual Thanks&Giving, of course. For the fourth consecutive year, the event brought together church members and community members for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
When I asked Sammy how it all began, he told me that for years Northminster members had eaten Thanksgiving dinner together on the eve of the holiday. “But I was tired of us feeding ourselves,” he told me. “I suggested that we feed some people who are hungry.” And so they did.
In a slight departure, this year’s dinner was served family style with serving dishes passed from guest to guest seated at 38 tables.
The idea was to create a feeling of connection and community. We were intentional about sharing rather than just serving.
For the second year, Rhonda Wells coordinated the event. She gathered and directed a diversity of volunteers from around the area. They came from Armstrong High School and Virginia Commonwealth University. They came from SunTrust Mortgage and Hands Up Ministries. They came from our church, other churches, and even other communities.
They set up tables. They decorated. They transported families without transportation. They greeted, mingled, served, entertained, provided childcare and cleaned up when it was over.
One of the most ambitious efforts was, naturally, the cooking. Sonya Wright took on that job. Last year she volunteered for Thanks & Giving by cooking a turkey at home. This year she took her participation to an entirely new level by spearheading the shopping and cooking.
“I love the ‘community’ idea of it, with so many people of different colors and from different walks of life,” she told me. “I really wanted to get behind it and support it.”
When it was time to eat, Worship Arts Director Logan Jones didn’t offer a blessing for the gathering as a whole. Instead, he asked our guests to say grace at their tables – again, with the intent of creating community. After dinner, Sammy spoke about Psalm 100 and its message of giving grateful praise. Next came hip-hop dancing led by Youth Coordinator Tiont Williams. The night ended with a raffle drawing for GRTC bus tickets as well as gift cards from Walmart and Kroger.
The Meaning Behind it
When I spoke to Sammy about Thanks & Giving, I had a second question.
If I could communicate just one idea about it at the expense of all others, what would it be? He said this: “Jesus told a story about a banquet. A man invited all of his friends who were equals and nobody would come. He told his servants to go out and bring in whomever they could find. The big idea is that with Thanks&Giving, we get a chance to relive that, and that what we discover is the richness in relationships that are diverse.”
People have told me that a good time was had by all at our banquet. I’ll have to take their word for it because although I was there, I saw none of it. Instead, I volunteered in the kitchen for the very first time. For three hours, we never once stopped talking, moving, pointing, plating, directing and thinking. It was intense, exhausting and delightful, all at the same time.
I was surrounded by food but never ate a bite. I left the church that evening absolutely starving. And yet wonderfully full.
Sign me up for the kitchen again next year, Rhonda.