Covenant UMC in Gastonia operates a Community Table every Wednesday evening throughout the year. Although an all-white congregation, the church is located in a community that is predominately black. The Community Table feeds nearly 100 people each week, 75% of whom are black and typically walk to the church for their meal. Approximately 12% of those being fed are homeless.
The Community Table does not close on holidays. In fact, for Thanksgiving Eve and Christmas Eve our guests were treated to tableside service. Instead of standing in line to receive their food – they were served at the table as if they were in a restaurant. Instead of paper plates and plastic utensils – they were provided with plates and silverware.
Each meal is preceded by a brief devotion and blessing. Volunteers from the church have formed four teams of 5 to 6 persons to prepare the meals and clean-up afterwards. Although fund-raisers are done from time to time to help fund the program, it is the volunteers themselves who typically purchase the food without asking for any reimbursement.
Brochures were created that listed all the agencies of support that our guests can look to for assistance. The brochures are placed on the tables each week along with information about a new youth group that the church is developing. Though we only have a handful of middle and high school youth as members, there are more than a dozen who come to the Community Table each week.
Prior to the winter season church members donated clothing, hats, boots, and shoes to our Community Table guests. When a family with young children became homeless, the church “adopted” them and helped them to acquire another home until they became financially stable again. As a result of building relationships with our Wednesday guests, some of them are now attending church services and one couple recently joined as members.
Though our neighbors receive the blessing of a hot meal and Christ-like hospitality each week, our church members receive the blessing of seeing the strength of faith in those who are less fortunate than themselves. Some of our guests have begun participating in the devotional time, offered prayer, and sang hymns. Covenant UMC is a good neighbor for its community.
Submitted by Pastor Vic Wilfong