Pass It On Cafe
By: Rev. Meg Gaston
What do you get when you combine Dinner Church with Messy Church? A Messy Dinner Church. Dr. Pati Graham, a certified lay minister and member at Bryson City UMC attended the training for each of these programs and realized that BCUMC could offer a hybrid of the two. For months Dr. Pati and Rev. Wayne Dickert worked to put together a team of volunteers who would be well trained so that all systems would be a go. Finally, after months of preparation, discussion, and dreaming up of how to do church differently, they launched Pass It On Café. This space is where community meals meet art projects. This dream began when they realized there was a community garden that wasn’t getting much attention. Dr. Pati saw that and knew that it was something their community could really use. Volunteers were recruited and the garden quickly had people to cultivate, plant, harvest, and use the food that was grown each month. The food is used in the monthly meals at Pass it On Café, with the rest of it going into a blessing box for those in the community who need it most.
The volunteer team that runs Pass It On Café is made up of fifteen adults and six children. Each member of this team was looking for a way they could plug in to the church with their specific gifts. Their volunteers consist of: angel chefs who do the prepping and cooking of the meals; dinner friends who sit at the table and build relationships with those who come to have a meal; then others who bring the food out and help with setting up, tearing down, and cleaning before and after each meal. They received a dinner church grant from the conference to help out but also had a large rummage sale at the church so that they will be ready when they begin to have it in person again.
Pass It On Café was just getting started when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they had to rethink what it would look like and how they would function within their community. They wanted to make sure that before doing anything else all of the volunteers were trained on how to continue this ministry in a way that was safe not only for them but also for the people they were serving. Currently they are operating as a drive-in dinner church where cars are coming in and picking up a meal with a message inside of it. They wanted to make sure that the art component of this was not lost so they have also put together kits to send home for the families to do together. They have taken gallon sized bags and filled them with birdhouses, paint, and children’s stories. This way the family unit can work on the bird houses together while also being able to talk about the children's story and scripture as a family as they decorate the bird houses.
The team behind this has seen discipleship play out in a number of ways. For some of their guests they are in the relationship development stage, wanting to make sure that they know that they bear the image of God and are loved. For others they are having discussions about what a faith walk will look like and how they see God at work in their lives. The Pass It On Café team wants to make sure that they are being intentional about how God is moving in their lives by showing that love to others.
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