BY BUFF GRACE – GUEST COLUMNIST
Before Marty Stuart’s country song “Too Much Month at the End of the Money” popularized the concept, churches in Stillwater began working together to ease this all-too-common burden in a project called Last Sunday Supper. For 17 years, diners have been able to show up at Ascension Episcopal Church on the last Sunday of the month and enjoy a free, delicious dinner. And with several churches involved in the partnership, people will be able to enjoy these meals for years to come.
On Sunday, March 30, at 4 p.m., project volunteers and diners will come together to celebrate this ministry in a choral Evensong provided by Ascension’s adult choir. Everyone is welcome. Mayor Ken Harycki and a representative from Valley Outreach will be guest readers, and worshippers will pray for and give thanks for longtime volunteers and diners. Current churches serving the Last Sunday Suppers are: Ascension Episcopal, First Presbyterian, Trinity Lutheran and Bethany Covenant.
The Rev. Margie Mattlin started Last Sunday Suppers in the fall of 1996, shortly after joining Ascension’s staff as a deacon. At first, Ascension members provided the monthly meal alone, but in the early 2000s, Stillwater First Presbyterian Church joined the ministry, offering to transport diners with its bus along a seven-mile loop in town.
Attendance grew quickly to as many as 70 diners, and other churches were invited to join the project. Before long, Trinity Lutheran and St. Paul’s Lutheran also came on board to help.
The four churches took turns through the year making delicious, nutritious meals and serving them in style with cloth tablecloths and napkins, entrees, salads, drinks and desserts. Diners could play Bingo or enjoy music or other activities after supper, and often went home with leftovers. Such was the diners’ and volunteers’ dedication that even a large building renovation at Ascension did not slow them down. They simply moved across the street, setting up shop in a neighborhood house and carrying on.
In more recent years, Bethlehem Lutheran of Bayport and Bethany Covenant Church have joined the project. Bethlehem Lutheran served for two years and then started its own supper program in Bayport called Second Sunday Suppers, increasing options for those in need in the community.
In 2010 the Last Sunday Supper project lost its ability to transport diners. Though that decreased access, significant numbers of diners still come each month to enjoy one another and the great food. A few diners have been coming all 17 years of the project and have only rarely missed a Sunday supper.
As the partner churches look ahead to the next 200 months, we hope to again offer transportation to diners and to partner with other agencies in the community to continue serving those needing a little help at the end of the month.
If you would like to get involved, please call Rev. Buff Grace at 651-439-2609.
Buff Grace is a pastor at Episcopal Church if the Ascension in Stillwater.