Discussion questions for families can be found here.
Find out how participating in the meal has been a blessing to our parishioners here.
St. Noel’s NEIGHBOR to NEIGHBOR Meal began in 2015 as a joint proposal of the Social Justice Committee and the Parish Pastoral Council. That vision has grown into a ministry of Communion, Presence, and LOVE in action. Involving as many people from the parish as possible; inviting our neighbors beginning with the people who are registered for our Food Pantry and gradually embracing the GED Ministry, the Prison Family Ministry, and the Deaf Community; eventually involving our Sacramental Preparation families, our Youth Group, and anyone else who wants to be involved.
If you want to know more please continue reading or contact Sharon and Bill Waltermire at [email protected] or 440-669-2798.
We begin as strangers coming together and becoming neighbors; Sharing a meal (not dispensing food); Avoiding the deeply ingrained hot meal ministry mindset of ‘feeding the poor’; Guarding against barriers which set us apart into ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’; and Discovering in the process that we are all part of the Body of Christ, each precious in God’s sight. This is a tall order, we can expect a slow and steep learning curve. We believe that over time we will identify together the ways in which we can neighbor each other better by listening and watching for opportunities for appropriate social advocacy built on trusting relationships.
We see our desire to feed the poor as the Lord’s way to trick us into discovering that we are each poor in some way, and we all have something to give and something we need to receive. The food is concealing the great fisherman’s hook. And lo, we are the fish caught by our Lord who has a Catch and Release program that sends us out into the world to be God’s body, to love our neighbor, and to be open to transformation ourselves.
Seen this way the food becomes a sacrament, an outward sign of God’s presence in the world. It will be prepared not only to be delicious, but to serve the Lord well. And we believe that it is the Lord’s purpose to use it to bring the people together, because it is only in coming together that we can use God’s gifts to build God’s Kingdom.
Food is used often in the stories Jesus told and the stories told about him: In his gospel, Luke tells us that “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking.” (Luke 7:34)
His first miracle was at the wedding feast at Cana. And at the Last Supper he asked us to remember him in the breaking of the bread.
We expect that the Lord will use the food as a lure to draw both those who serve and those who come to eat. And through our communal meal we will form relationships that honor the Great Commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, with your whole mind, with your whole strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
That’s where the name NEIGHBOR to NEIGHBOR comes from.
We see the Lord as the host of our meal, and we as his guests and agents welcoming the other guests to join us in fellowship. Not to eat and run, but to stay and share our time and tell our stories. And in the listening, the heart of hospitality, we will come to understand that we need each other.
Pope Francis calls us to this “Culture of Encounter,” the idea of reaching out, fostering dialogue and friendship, even outside the usual circles, making a special point of encountering people who are neglected and ignored by the wider world.
This is a counter-cultural approach to the traditional hot meal program. But as we have gone around to some of the other hot meal programs in the area, we have seen Christ in action. Not only where we expected to, in the people who are serving; But especially where the ‘church’ people are sitting at table with the guests. We have seen Christ in the interaction, hosts and guests and guests and guests. If we think of feeding the poor in only financial terms, we are misguided. People are hungry for much more than food: there is a great hunger for a kind word, a listening ear, simple companionship.
After his resurrection, Christ met two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, even though their hearts burned, they didn’t recognize him when he interpreted the scriptures, they invited him to dinner and only at table, when he blessed and broke the bread, did they come to know him. We too can come to know the Lord better not only in the broken bread of the Eucharist, but in the bread we will break together at St Noel’s NEIGHBOR to NEIGHBOR Meal.
St. Noel’s NEIGHBOR to NEIGHBOR Meal Steering Committee
Sharon & Bill Waltermire, Co-Leaders