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Churches offer compassion by feeding bodies and souls

Posted: January 2 2024 at 10:17 AM
Katherine Conrad Opkn0c7s9u Unsplash

Grace UMC, Rockford, makes a record 100,000 sandwiches for the hungry 

Imagine 100,000 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Grace United Methodist Church in Rockford has made that many over the past three years.  

It started as a one-time mission project but has continued consistently since August 2020. Every Friday morning, 14 to 20 volunteers gather at the church to make and deliver 640 sandwiches to Ms. Carly’s, a local service for hungry neighbors. Ms. Carly’s provides the peanut butter and jelly and Grace UMC provides the bread—and, most importantly, the volunteers. The church has no sign-up sheet and makes no telephoned reminders; a reliable group shows up every week to serve others in this ministry of love. WREX-TV in Rockford featured the sandwich-making ministry on one of its recent newscasts.

Miss Carly’s was started by a Rockford family who decided to welcome the hungry and homeless in the neighborhood to their dining table. They now give sack lunches to as many as 1,000 people at any time of the day, while remaining a small and intimate operation that welcomes everyone. From time to time, they meet with people in crisis to troubleshoot their situation, directing them to resources and assistance.   

New Life UMC in Machesney Park recognized as Ministry of the Month

The Friday-night cookouts that New Life United Methodist Church (Machesney Park) in October received Ministry of the Month recognition from the Epicenter Group, an organization that coaches new churches and declining churches for growth.  

The church had been meeting as a very small fellowship on Saturday nights. One week they decided to grill hamburgers and hot dogs at cookouts every Friday night. Two Saturdays a month, they offered dinner church, inviting neighbors to a worship service that takes place around a meal. Within just a few weeks, new people were flowing into worship, including enough to start a youth ministry.  

Support for the prison-ministry retreat  

Members of First United Methodist in Oak Park stepped up in September to assist Neville Reid’s (who also is the pastor’s spouse) leadership of a weekend retreat at Stateville Correctional Center, a men’s prison near Joliet. For this Kairos Prison Ministry program, Oak Park UMC, Hinsdale UMC, and other churches baked over 1,000 of the 30,000 cookies served during the weekend. They also wrote letters of encouragement to the participating inmates; some attended the retreat’s closing ceremony.  

Other United Methodist churches that consistently assist the Kairos ministry at Stateville include Plainfield, St. Mark (Chicago), Hinsdale, and Barrington. 

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