In Cedar Key, Florida the pandemic brought a pause to ministry events and gathering of people. We did not stop dreaming, hoping and planning for a new missional focus reaching the people and especially the disenfranchised folks of our community. For us the Pandemic seemed like a cocoon, We entered in one fashion to be formed and are emerging with new missional focus and vigor.
So; we prayed, listened, asked God for direction, wisdom, favor and to show us a path forward. People got involved, excited and even energized by this spiritual preparation. God answered those prayers and on December 5th 2021 we launched a Community Dinner inviting our friends, neighbors and strangers to a meal.
As a liturgical and sacramental expression, we framed this around St. Nicholas Day in the church calendar. We told a Jesus Story through the lens of Nicholas and early church Bishop of Myra and the forerunner of our modern-day Santa Claus. (We actually had someone portray St. Nicholas and he spoke in the first person and captivated all especially the children present!)
65+ people came out with 30+ not having any connection to the church. We had a great meal of walking tacos and some Christmas cookies! The meal aspect was easy. After years of pot-luck dinners we know how to feed people.
God showed up in a gathered group of people who had conversations, engaged and connected with their neighbors (possibly unknown to them) and listened to the story of St. Nicholas and how in his day he made the world a better place by Christian faith and practice.
Most of the regular congregation of Christ Episcopal Church were involved in one way or another; by set-up and tear down, cooking and assembling the meal, baking cookies and helping with a Christmas / St. Nicholas craft for kids.
It did not cost that much and we were able to fund this through setting aside funds from our operational budget.
We started with this first Community Dinner and repeated it a few times in hopes to go weekly soon with a faith community emerging. What a simple thing to gather around a table and talk about Jesus. It’s the kind of thing that can change a person’s life and in many ways the community and world in which we live.