Physical distance, social togetherness: Revamped community meal distributed

Herman Engelhart, a member of Christ Lutheran Church, hands prepared food to Laura Simmons Saturday afternoon. The church along Vocke Road continued its free community meal in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Food was delivered to some residents and passed out to drivers in their vehicles and to those who walked up to a table in the parking lot.

LAVALE — Social distancing shouldn’t mean losing your giving spirit.

That’s how the volunteers at Christ Lutheran Church viewed it as they prepped and delivered their regular community meal in an irregular way Saturday afternoon.

All packed up in a bag and box, the meal of chicken casserole on a bed of noodles, peas, applesauce, a roll, tossed salad and dessert made by parishioners of the church, was delivered by a volunteer wearing gloves to people who parked their cars and waited for their turn.

The church’s usual meal feeds about 100 people, said Pastor Daniel Swanson. 

Because of concerns over coronavirus, having that many people gather in the church building just couldn’t happen, said Pat Crawford, who was in charge of this month’s meal. 

They question they asked themselves was, “How can we contain this and still get people food?” Swanson said. “How do we do it in a low-risk way?”

So they came up with the solution to deliver food to arriving cars.

“In thinking about changes that needed to happen, we need to take care of people,” said Swanson. “In social distancing, we need really to be physically distancing, but practice social togetherness.” 

In addition, it’s not an ordinary community meal. Crawford said she went to Martin’s in LaVale to pick up supplies and the store donated all the produce it couldn’t put out with new restrictions in place — two whole grocery carts full.

“This casserole is a casserole I’m really comfortable with,” said Crawford. “We all work together every month. It takes a village to pull it off.”

On Friday, a group of around eight gathered in the kitchen to bag the rolls, everything that could be bagged and cut the chicken breast. On Saturday, the food was cooked, the desserts arrived and the meal was packaged for delivery.

The church is used to packaging food, as, even in pandemic-less times, they have parishioners who can’t leave their houses for some reason or another that they will deliver the meal to.

“We feel that it’s an important ministry,” said Crawford. “We don’t know what next month will be. The restrictions might be different. We don’t know what to expect.”

New virus practices are forcing the church to think outside of the box to continue its ministry.

“It’s helping us to be a church in a new century,” said Swanson. “That’s all new for me. Our bishop sets the example for us; he’s been leading services live on YouTube and Facebook.”

The church is considering using Zoom, a video conferencing app, for its Bible studies.

“We were going through who’s vulnerable and my thinking is everyone is,” said Swanson. “It helps us think about what’s important.” 

Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.

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