“Um, Abbi, what’s the Bridge?”
This is what a lot of my bulletin/calendar proofreading sounds like in my first months of serving UUMC. I have fresh eyes, so I keep asking fresh questions: “What’s this? Where’s that?” I hope to continue this spirit of newness and openness as I get more familiar here---because I always want us to be prepared to welcome first-time guests.
Abbi (the amazing communications and office manager at UUMC) answered my questions by explaining that The Bridge is, among other things, a homeless feeding ministry. I liked the sound of that. So, knowing nothing else, my husband Adam and I decided to go.
Now, I like to stay within my comfort zone. I’m also very detail-oriented. My instinct is always to pick up the phone and use my United Methodist pastor-network to get detailed directions and find out who else is involved --- just generally poke around until I feel comfortable.
But this time I wanted to go as a first-time visitor. I was determined to do this, dear reader, on your behalf, so that I could say, “See! If I did it, anyone can!”
So Adam met me at the church so we could drive downtown together. In case you are looking for directions to the Bridge from UUMC, here goes: from Delmar, take Skinker to I-64, go east for __ miles (okay, I’ve forgotten how many miles this was), get off at Exit 38-D... when your driver-husband says, "There is no 38-D!" then get off at 38-B instead. This is where my directions get a little fuzzy because raised voices ensued. We're new at this marriage thing (as well as the living-in-St-Louis thing), so we're still learning what activities don't go well together (e.g., me navigating + Adam driving).
But we made it. The parking lot was super-easy to find. The sign to the church says, "Centenary UMC. A place where miracles happen." (I love University UMC’s tagline: “Be You. Be Loved. Belong”—but “A Place Where Miracles Happen” is a close second! I’m glad to be part of a denomination where each congregation can support each other and cheer when other United Methodist churches reach out to their community).
We pulled into the parking lot and immediately saw a University UMC member walking in. He showed us how to sign in as a volunteer. As I signed my name, I saw a whole list of names above me labeled "UUMC."
We got there about 4:35 and were put to work right away. Everyone else was there earlier and in the future, we'll try to be, too!
I loved standing between church people, working as a team. We were given aprons, hair nets, and disposable gloves. (I was told in the future that open-toed shoes wouldn’t work but I got a pass for my first day).
We cracked dozens and dozens of eggs for breakfast the next morning. And then we joined the serving line. I had the easy job of adding bread to a plate already full of chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, corn on the cob, and a beautifully-tossed salad.
In addition to local churches, individuals, and non-profits, local stores also donate food supplies. I was thrilled to see cupcakes from my favorite local cupcake place (yes, I have been here two months and already have a favorite cupcake place!).
Clean up at the Bridge was very organized and efficient. Guests clear their plates and wipe down the tables. After serving at other food service agencies, I can attest to how important this is: organized missions show the people receiving that we care about the safe and welcoming experience and not just about delivering food.
We quickly loaded dishes into the dishwasher (my job was wheeling the carts of dishes in from the other room), and before I knew it, we were done! We did leave a little hungry after smelling this amazing food for an hour.
You can go once and fit in right away (that's always a concern of mine when serving) --- or you can come back every month and build a relationship with the Bridge and the people there.
Near the end of our time cleaning up, the main dishwasher asked me, “So, preacher, what does your husband do?”
“He teaches historical theology.”
“He studies what it means to be church.”
Occasionally Adam and I look at each other and say, let's go BE church. So we did.
Note: If you want better directions, please e-mail Dan Barrett. He is at The Bridge regularly!