Jean Ferguson helps serve fruit at First United Methodist Church of Seattle during Shared Breakfast. In 2016, almost 15,000 hot breakfasts were served, fulfilling its tag line, “…tending the soul of the city”.
By Elizabeth Blanton
Every Sunday morning in the Fellowship Hall of First United Methodist Church of Seattle, volunteers arrive before the sun comes up to prepare 60 dozen eggs, 400 biscuits, six gallons of gravy, 40 lbs. of sausage, 10 pounds of coffee and 30 boxes of cereal. Sometimes a Shared Breakfast guest will leave a note behind on their paper placemat, like this one: “Thanks for the great breakfast. You made me smile when I thought there was not anything to smile about.” This month, First Church is celebrating the 20th year of its Shared Breakfast program.
On Sunday morning, January 5, 1997, on a wing and many prayers, members of First Church began serving breakfast one Sunday every month to homeless and hungry people in downtown Seattle as part of a new strategic direction “to increase the diversity, quality, and quantity of our ministry in the heart of Seattle.”
At the first breakfast, 13 volunteers served 44 homeless men. Dedicated volunteers and a “can do” spirit for urban ministry kept Shared Breakfast going for the next few years despite many challenges. By the close of 2001 Shared Breakfast attendance had more than doubled, feeding over 200 people every month.
In 2004, seven other United Methodist Churches in the Seattle region signed on to send volunteers to Shared Breakfast, making it possible for Shared Breakfast to be served on two Sundays every month. Volunteers from Kent United Methodist Church and Cornerstone United Methodist Church still regularly come to help.
In the spring of 2008, the First Church congregation became “homeless” itself when their building was sold. During the following two years, the church worshipped at Seattle Children’s Theatre while the new church building on the corner of 2nd and Denny in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood was under construction. First Church coordinated with its new neighbors in Belltown, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, to serve Shared Breakfast on the Sacred Heart property until the new First Church building was completed. In January of 2010, the congregation moved into its new church building and Shared Breakfast moved into its new home in the church’s Fellowship Hall.
Again on a wing and many prayers, First Church began serving Shared Breakfast every Sunday in October 2013. The food for Shared Breakfast, which now costs $35,000 per year, is funded entirely by donations, and 25 volunteers who are needed every week. Jean Ferguson, who has been coordinating Shared Breakfast for 17 years, says, “Even though I worry now and then about funding and volunteers, I’ve discovered that prayer is the best solution. New facets for income occur on a surprisingly regular basis, which have enabled us to continue with breakfast each week. This is also true of our wonderful volunteer help.”
In 2016, 14,878 hot breakfasts were served. “The congregation has been able to sustain this ministry through their own commitment, passion, and sacrifice,” says Rev. Sharon Moe, Senior Pastor of First Church.
Learn more about Shared Breakfast and how you can get involved, or bit.ly/firstchurch-shared-breakfast.