Church #4. Meet Mary Corning Sanders. She is a solo pastor at United Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington. United has a membership of 100 people, with about 45-50 worshipping on a given Sunday. What this little church has done is amazing.
Sanders says, “The realities are like many. United is an aging white congregation with little to no budget.” To help facilitate the building, the church shares with two other congregations, an African American Church and a Samoan Church.
United along with Pastor Mary have one goal in mind, which is “Proclaiming God’s Promise.” Sanders makes a comparison that United Lutheran Church is like the Mighty Mouse Cartoon, the congregation is little but strong!
Deciding to take a church assessment, United found out their diagnosis. They are as Pastor Mary described as being “financially challenged” but “spiritually vibrant”. With creative leadership and a congregation with a determined spirit, United made a bold move to open its doors.
About five years ago, a new idea began to stir around food insecurity. United realized that food shortage and people going hungry is a real issue. They decided to open a weekly community meal and food bank. Pastor Mary says, “Every Wednesday from 12-2 pm, anyone who shows up hunger is welcomed to eat lunch with us.”
The community meal has doubled in hungry visitors from five years ago. And over half of the volunteers who serve the meal are not from United. Donations for the meal and the food shelf pour in from the budget and members, a grant from the ELCA, from the food drives by the Boy Scouts and the school across the street.
Sanders estimates that in both 2015 and 2016 that approximately 3000-3500 meals were served by the community lunch and/or food shelf. The reality that really hits home though is that not only has the program grown but so has the need. This little church of 100 people has fed over 3000 people with food and counting! Amazing!
Why does this community meal and food shelf matter? It matters because inside the walls, these programs give the church a sense of purpose in following Jesus. It’s God’s work, our hands. But in John 21:17, “Jesus said to Peter, ‘Feed my sheep.’” For United and Pastor Mary, they believe that as Christians we are called to do just that, to feed those who are hungry and clothe those in need. It’s all about God’s sheep.
For more information on this story, contact Pastor Mary Corning Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-475-3175.