Whitewater church feeds body and soul
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WHITEWATER Every Monday evening, in Guild Hall of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Whitewater, a modern-day version of the Gospel narratives of the feeding of the multitudes takes place. There are no fishes involved, but there are loaves -- 12 to 14 each meal. As well, the priest and members of the congregation serve up 40 pounds of pasta, seven gallons of spaghetti sauce, 14 pounds to 16 pounds of meatballs plus melted butter, salad, Parmesan cheese and ice cream for dessert.
Between 250 and 300 students take advantage of this free meal each week. The Rev. Dave Huxley, the priest of the church and of the Lutheran Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, takes part in this ministry, as do the coordinator of the program, Carol Christ, and other members of the congregation.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
“At St. Luke’s, our condensed ministry statement is: We feed people.” Huxley explains. “Feeding the college kids is an extension of what we naturally do, feeding people and partnering with the LECM to help with student meals. Many of our parishioners have connections to UW-Whitewater and enjoy taking part in the hospitality and the nourishing. To paraphrase what Jesus said in Matthew 25, ‘Come you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food ... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”
Many of the students who enjoy the meal are from areas adjacent to the church, which are filled with off-campus housing.
“These are kids who are not in dorms with dining hall plans,” Huxley points out. “Some have told us that ours is the only meal they eat on Mondays.”
They aren’t only feeding bodies on these Mondays -- souls are nourished as well. “There is a lot of interaction at the tables, since the seating is family style,” Huxley said. “Students meet each other all the time. Some students come in groups -- the Habitat for Humanity students and the athletic teams, for example. Others come in alone, but they’re absorbed into fellowship at the tables they join.
“This is a place, especially during times in the semester which are stressful -- exam weeks, for instance -- where students can hang out, get a good meal and find a place of refuge. It’s a sanctuary for them,” Huxley said.
Feeding these “multitudes” is quite an accomplishment, and even more so when you realize the congregation of St. Luke’s numbers between 20 and 30 parishioners. In fact, the congregation is so small they have moved their services from the original sanctuary to St. Luke’s Guild Hall, which is where the weekly meal is served.