It’s 7:15 on Sunday morning in Wesley Hall. Around 15 people have brought food from their homes and have set it out on long serving tables. Breakfast casserole, biscuits, gravy, sausage, fruit, and various other tasty items are offered up to the guests, a group of 80 – 100 people who live on the streets.
The room fills up with people and their backpacks. A few have their bedrolls with them. They make their way to the round tables to wait a short time to be invited to get in the food line. One of the group leaders welcomes everyone with a clear and cheerful hello.
“We welcome you here, and as we always say:
‘We consider church starting right now as we all eat together.’”
Her words create a sense of the informal sacred — people sharing the most basic of human needs: food, safety, laughter, and acceptance.
The atmosphere and ambience in a beautifully decorated room with padded chairs at round tables, make this a special event — but it’s one that happens every Sunday. Three local musicians offer up a repertoire of favorites from a variety of genres. “Let It Be,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “You’ve Got a Friend” — just to name a few. One of the musicians even wrote a funny song to announce that seconds are available. “Come and get your biscuits right now” sung to the tune of “Mamma Don’t Allow” brings cheers and laughter.
For these 120 people, the breakfast is their regular Sunday morning stop. For several years now FUMCFW’s DiscipleChurch has hosted the meal. The event has grown from a pop-up tent in the parking lot offering coffee and donuts to the seated and relaxing time with a full meal.
Jon Tyson is a regular. He tells me that he feels no pressure while he’s here. “It’s just a good, relaxed atmosphere.” He’s telling me this while people are lining up to go to the food tables to fill up their trays. On their way they pass by two ministers who offer the sacraments of bread and juice to them.
The minister has made it clear that the Communion elements are offered to all, but that no one is required to participate. His short homily ties the sacraments to the breakfast food — all of it freely given in love. Some receive the Communion bread and juice, some decline; but the easy spirit of the whole room makes it clear that no one needs to feel pressure — Jon Tyson is right about that.
By 7:50 am the room is starting to empty and volunteers — some guests and some hosts — start to reset the room for another group who will use the space in about an hour and a half. Tables are wiped, taken down and rolled to storage, and chairs are rearranged. “Church” is still happening while people work together on this. Others go to the kitchen to wash the food trays.
By 8:20 am some of these same people begin to take their places in Leonard Chapel for the more traditional church service. Soft piano music greets people as they come in. The brilliant stained glass windows tell their stories in jewel tones. My eyes focus on the window that features a small fish. Maybe the artist is recalling the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. Perhaps we don’t feed 5,000, but after all these centuries, we still provide food for the hungry, freely given in love. Church started an hour ago with biscuits and gravy and continues now as the people open their hymnals.
7:15 am: breakfast in Wesley Hall
8:30 am: traditional worship in Leonard Chapel
9:30 am: fellowship and discussion in Foundation Building, Room 271