Thinking Out Loud

June 16, 2010

The Mercy Ministry Learning Curve

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:59 am

Across North America and around the world, Evangelicals, many for the first time, are learning what it means to be in service to those gripped by poverty.   Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, thrift shops, etc., were once the purview of mainline Protestant churches; but all that has changed when Evangelical churches started to put the needs of the poor on their radar.

I’ve already addressed the question, “Should we say grace before each meal?”   That’s been a rather thorny issue for the team my wife started four years ago, for reasons too complex to iterate here.   The people her group serves have already ‘served time’ when it comes to being in situations where you have to take the sermon before you get the soup.  The issue isn’t black-and-white, trust me.  If you missed that one, feel free to add a comment.

Today’s question is, “Should the team ration how much food people take when going through the line the first time?”

The problem is, on the one hand, there are times like this week where some people simply pig out, and the people at the end of the line are left with very little.  Not a happy situation.   One week a guest team from a local church came to serve the meal and they actually stood and served people and rationed out portions.

However, on the other hand, my wife views this meal as a type of community.   Her core team is convinced that there isn’t an “us and them” dichotomy and that we are all sharing a meal together as a family.   The team actually blends in; and everyone eats together with team members sitting at various tables getting to know fellow diners intimately.  It’s the classic Eastern “sharing a meal” thing.

“But wait a minute;” I argue; “Even in families there are teachable moments where you learn to share; where you learn to look out for the interests of others.”

I am always out-voted on this.   For the foreseeable future, nobody is going to be told what they can’t have, including the guy who brings his own 16-inch china dinner plate.

But the people at the back of the line are acutely aware of what they can’t have.

How do you continue the family atmosphere without authoritarian formalities and at the same time make sure everybody gets fed?

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