It was 11:30 a.m. and people were waiting to to go inside Miller Memorial Baptist Church on North 22nd Street off Ridge Avenue. This isn’t uncommon for a Thursday afternoon because this is when the church hosts the Share A Blessing Ministry. Created 14 years ago by Deaconess Sarah Lynch, the ministry serves lunch to the homeless and needy every Thursday afternoon.
“I guess through a God-given vision, she wanted to develop some type of feeding ministry that would feed individuals that are either homeless or those who are not able to get a meal throughout the week,” said Miller Memorial’s Rev. Wayne M. Weathers.
At 8 a.m. every Thursday, Deaconess Sarah Lynch and the other deaconesses start preparing the food to be served at noon. “They’re in there all morning,” said Deacon Edwin Awkward. “You don’t want to get in their way while they’re making that food.”
This Thursday’s meal consisted of a large chicken breast, a heap of mashed potatoes, corn, green beans and gravy to top it all off–and the group prepares enough food each week to feed at least 100 people at each meeting of the ministry.
“We had 104 people one time,” said Deacon Awkward, who offers the prayer and a reading from the Bible before the meal is served. “It goes up and down, but I’d say we average about 30 people now.”
Before the people were let into the cafeteria below the church, Deacon Awkward brought together the deaconesses and his fellow deacons for a circle of prayer. They all joined hands as one of the deaconesses offered the prayer for the afternoon. After the prayer was said, the people were let in and the deaconesses returned to the kitchen for their final preparations of the food.
“They have a brand new, beautiful kitchen,” said Deacon Awkward as he sat for his lunch, “It cost us $140,000 and we had it paid off in a year. We’re one of the only churches in the city that doesn’t have a debt.”
Miller Memorial’s members have been extremely generous to the church and are a big reason why the church is able to provide the meal.
“Part of it is with a partnership with Catholic Social Services but then also with our church, when we take collections, there is a missionary fund,” said Reverend Weathers, “Part of that missionary fund is our mission and another part is for [the] mission. Feeding homeless and needy families is [a] mission so we do take part of our budget and apply it to Share A Blessing Ministry as well.”
Many of the people that come to Share A Blessing are familiar faces while others are new. Miller Memorial has even had some unexpected people come to the ministry as well.
“One of the shockers that I encountered with Share A Blessing was when I was helping with serving down there about three of four years ago and one of the members asked me, ‘Do you know who this gentleman is that came to Share A Blessing?’ and I was like, ‘No.’ and he said, ‘Well, he was almost a heavy-weight boxing champ of the world,’” said Reverend Weathers, “So he told me the gentleman’s name, I came up [to my office] and Googled it, and the gentleman’s name was Jimmy Young. Jimmy Young almost beat Muhammad Ali. Before he died, he came here quite frequently to receive a meal from Share A Blessing. That was really a shocker to see someone who beat strong George Foreman, almost beat the champ, but now later in life after all the glitz and glamour is gone, was here at Share A Blessing.”
After the meal was over, those present were then welcome to go through the Clothes Closet that is provided through donations from the church community. A vast amount of clothes and shoes lined the wall on racks and tables giving the people the opportunity to get some new clothing.
The people who came to Share A Blessing on Thursday afternoon were all extremely grateful, had smiles on their faces and immediately said hello to Deacon Awkward as they came inside. The deaconesses hustled around the kitchen, passing the plates as they loaded them with food. As soon as the main dish was served, it seemed that everyone was ready for desert.
It was obvious that everyone involved with the ministry was proud and happy to be there and were extremely welcoming to those that come every week. “All of the people that are involved in Share A Blessing are very dedicated,” said Reverend Weathers, “They don’t see this as volunteer time, they see this as a ministry.”