In the spring of 2015, Grace Moravian Church member Bethany Brintle expressed her desire to provide a free meal for the community.
Her goal was for the church to bring together neighbors for a time of fellowship and to create an opportunity for members of the congregation to focus on a common mission.
Although there were several churches providing community meals at that time, she felt that most targeted a particular population of people in need.
“I told [interim] Pastor Jennie Hemrick that my vision was to create a ‘community meal’ where everyone from the community could come and fellowship — church members, neighbors, friends, and anyone in the community in need of a healthy meal.,” she said.
The idea was first taken to the outreach committee, a newly organized sub-committee of the evangelism committee, looking for a way to make a difference. The outreach committee had ample money on hand from fundraisers that they were willing to use to initially fund the efforts. The vision was shared with the congregation and with their support and Brintle’s leadership, the outreach committee planned the first trial meal with the congregation in May 2015.
Although the meal was a success, the committee recognized the need for more involvement from church members in preparing the food. Brintle sought help from Kristin Pruett in identifying areas of need in order to better plan the next meal that occurred in June 2015 – the first official meal offered to the public.
Brintle says the outreach committee members attempted to engage as many members of the congregation, committees and groups as they could. The response was overwhelming.
“Young and old answered the call for assistance. Youth members, Katie Brintle and Oshyn Bryant, volunteered to design placemats for the tables and the older youth helped serve meals to the diners,” the church said recently. “Head usher Jim Littleton offered to share a devotional and prayer with the group prior to the meal. Debbie Massey created small gifts for diners to remind them of God’s love. The prayer group established a prayer bowl for those desiring comfort and/or support through prayer. Sunday school classes provided desserts. The Men’s Fellowship began delivering meals to our shut-ins as they saw the need … the list of contributions goes on and on.”
Almost three years later, the community meal is still being offered and serves on average of 160 people.
”We now have four cooking teams led by Debbie Massey, Megan Simpson, Glenda Littleton, and Janet Hull that cook on a rotating schedule,” Brintle said. “There are still plenty of church members who wish to serve as greeters, table setters, wait-staff, and clean-up crew.”
The meal serves as an opportunity to extend an invitation to the community to upcoming church events such as Bible School, Love Feasts, concerts, and movie nights. And although Pastor Neill Routh shares a short devotion after the meal and invites diners to visit Grace Moravian church on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m., it isn’t a requirement to enjoy the meal and fellowship offered each month.
The community meal supports Grace Moravian Church’s focus on discipleship as opposed to increasing membership.
Organizers said several churches in Mount Airy offer free community meals. Taking into consideration when other meals are offered, the church established the fourth Tuesday of each month as Grace Moravian Church’s Community Meal date. The meal is free and the doors are open to the public at 5:15 p.m. with the meal being served at 5:30 p.m..