Ann Hope offers weekly free meals for community

By the Rev. Jamie McDowell

Ann Hope United Methodist Church is located in the Utica Mill Village of Seneca. For the past 10 and a half years, they have been serving a free meal to anyone in the community every Wednesday night.

During this time they have connected with other local churches of different denominations. These churches share in the preparing and serving the meals. These churches serve on a regular schedule. Just as some churches do not have fifth Sundays scheduled for regular service, Ann Hope does not have a regular schedule for fifth Wednesdays. Earlier this year they posted a call to action. They wanted someone to prepare and serve meals on the fifth Wednesdays this year.

This call was shared with the Hopewell-Zion Charge of the Anderson District. The administrative chair of Hopewell, Jackie Ballard, took the lead and signed the church up for May 29. After a short debate it was voted on, and the charge decided to serve smoked Boston Butts with buns, slaw and baked beans with brownies for dessert. In conversation with members of Ann Hope, it was mentioned that Ann Hope just happened to have a fundraiser on the horizon. This fundraiser included smoking Boston Butts.

On May 20, church pastor Jamie McDowell had the privilege to assist several members of Ann Hope in firing up a wood smoker loaded with fresh apple and pecan wood, as well as 32 Boston Butts. Eleven of the butts were pulled to be served on May 29, and the rest were sold to raise money for Utica Inc, a nonprofit striving to reach the youth of the Utica community.

On May 29, members of Hopewell-Zion stepped out of their comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory. They came together for the first time with members of Ann Hope UMC. They used the kitchen in the fellowship hall to finish preparing the Boston Butts, prepare their own blend of baked beans (the secret which even Duke will not share!) and cook the brownies. While they were anxious about steeping out the members of Hopewell/Zion were also excited to have the chance to serve God outside of their comfort zone.

The evening started with a devotion from Rev. Matt Turner at 6 P.m. Serving of the meal began about 10 minutes after six. Within about 22 minutes, approximately 100 meals had been handed out to a wide variety of people. These included white-collar, blue-collar, elderly, homeless, challenged, addicted and other people.

The meal was a success in many ways. The majority of folks appreciated the food, the three churches enjoyed working together and the Hopewell-Zion charge enjoyed a new experience. In fact the only complaint McDowell heard was that those serving did not have enough time to get to know those being served.

The Hopewell-Zion charge has asked Ann Hope and Turner for another date to be able to serve, and they are already planning the next menu.

This church has left its building.

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