Friday, November 24, 2006

Special Thanksgiving meal unites strangers

Nov. 24, 2006
Telegram Staff Writer

Not everyone at the table was related or even acquainted, but their behavior didn't show it.
They smiled, held hands and said grace before the Thanksgiving meal was served, just like a family.
Some were family through Christ, united as brothers in faith. And some were distant kin through their shared struggle in poverty and homelessness.
But most of the 100 or so people who came to eat turkey Thursday at First Christian Church in Temple were strangers to each other.
The opening prayer, however, quickly melded the various groups and those who were sitting alone into a single entity.
'Let's all thank God that we are here today together,' said the Rev. Jerry Kirkpatrick of Waco, transitional minister at First Christian Church in Temple. 'We're here to share this day and this meal together with thanks for all that God as provided. Today, we are all united.'
Heads bowed as the Rev. Kirkpatrick spoke, and a moment of silence was observed. And then the space between the various attendees disappeared. Everyone stood together as they went to receive their meal.
The First Christian Church Disciples Women prepared the Thanksgiving feast, which was more than enough to quell the hunger of everyone there. Dinners were delivered to homebound church members and anyone walking down the street who happened to be hungry was welcome to join the crowd inside.
There was turkey, smoked, un-smoked, dark, white, with gravy and without. There was dressing. There were sweet potatoes, fruit salads and desserts. And there was cranberry sauce.
As soon as one Styrofoam plate of food disappeared from the serving counter, another would take its place, almost instantaneously. The 'food in the back' seemed to have no end. As the feeding frenzy started to slow, the First Church Disciples Women said they'd have some leftovers to share with others.
All of the food sat on a fall-themed tablecloth with pumpkin-filled cornucopias serving as the centerpieces. The napkins looked like fall as well with an earth-tone background and a foreground of acorns and harvested corn. Some multi-colored leaves decorated the green and beige pitcher in the napkin's center.
Some people weren't too sure if they wanted to partake in the feast.
'Oh, you have to at least have one bite,' echoed one church lady after another. 'After all, this food was made by one of the best cooks in the whole world.'
As people's plates were cleared and as some asked for take-home boxes, the food-appreciaters sighed in after-dinner contentment, seeming to prove the church ladies had spoken truth.
The words 'thank you' were said in the serving line and again as the dinner guests stood up, ready to go home - happy and full.
But there was really no need for those words to be said because everything given and everything received were matters of the heart, and as the pastor said earlier, the heart has its own language.
'We're here to share,' said Celinda Hallbauer, member of the Disciples Women group. 'That's what we're here for - to give to each other and to love each other.'

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