Community Dinners break the fourth wall of church
By Jesse N. Love | Photos by Jesse N. Love and the Rev. Gloria Kymn
Des Moines UMC and partners work to feed all people in body, mind, and spirit.
The faint sizzling sounds and the warm aroma of freshly grilled burgers fill the air. Fellowship hall doors welcome many from the neighborhood. At Des Moines United Methodist Church, it’s dinnertime!
Now in its 10th year, Community Dinners have served approximately 80,000 meals to a hungry community. Tonight, about 30 church volunteers are serving up thick and juicy hamburgers along with fresh fruit, cold beverages and side fixin’s to rival the neighborhood Red Robin down the street. Every third Tuesday, the Church invites people – many coming from work, who are tired and hungry – to simply sit down and enjoy a meal with others in the community.
This evening, about 125 people will have been served – which is an above average count – thanks to retired pastor, Ronald Hines. Hines was the visiting preacher on the previous Sunday. He encouraged parishioners to go out and meet with the people outside of the four walls of the church.
Supporting the Community Dinners are Des Moines UMC’s Clare Elizabeth and Marcia Campbell, both of whom have been involved since the Dinner’s inception 10 years ago. Inspired by a presentation from then-District Superintendent Ronald Hines at The PNW Annual Conference Sessions in 2005, members of DMUMC worked together to find ways to welcome people from the neighborhood.
Today, Des Moines UMC schedules Community Dinners in association with Normandy Park United Church of Christ, Grace Lutheran Church, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Wesley Homes, and the Des Moines Area Food Bank to serve, alternating every Tuesday. Between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., the hall is active as volunteers bring out signs, set tables, prepare entrées, serve, and clean up. Although, evangelizing isn’t the prime focus, 26 people came together tonight and shared a prayer before tonight’s dinner.
“(Des Moines is a) blue-collar community, that is very accepting, really outgoing, diverse, with mixed ages,” shares Marcia Campbell. “About 80% of the kids are on free or reduced lunch programs. There’s a need in the community.”
“It’s not just a meal, but it is sharing with folks,” shares Hines. He reminisces often about Fort Nez Percé, an old trading post near the Colombia River in Wallula, Wash. The fort featured four large walls to protect those inside from Indians during the 1800s. Hines muses on how traders would do business through a small hole in the Fort’s wall – a metaphor for how the church can sometimes be when interacting with its neighbors. “People are concerned about how we can interact with our neighbors and how we can be a Church in mission. We are going to connect with our neighbors and make a difference.”
“The people who come have developed community,” shares Clare Elizabeth.
“People know each other, know us, and feel welcomed I hope,” Marcia Campbell concurs. “We try to have enough food. Sometimes we have too much, sometimes we don’t have enough…”
Community Dinner first started with about 60 people and is now growing. Volunteers, donors, and other supporters are working hard to keep feeding the people of the Des Moines Area. These dinners helped shape the mission of Des Moines UMC…and feeding a community in need is an important idea the church wants to uphold.
Des Moines UMC works to feed all people in body, mind, and spirit.
Jesse N. Love serves as graphic designer and print manager for the PNWUMC.