The decision has been made that we are operating as a charity dining hall, and therefore are breaking zoning ordinance. So, to feed the hungry and poor on church property, according to this ruling, is not an allowed function of the church.
But the process is not over. We can appeal to the Board of Adjustment, and will be able to continue our ministry during this time.
However, there’s still a lot of questions to be answered. Questions like, How hungry? What about our potlucks? What about our Christmas dinner or Easter Sunrise breakfast? When I eat that, I am pretty hungry…is that allowed? What about the coffee and donuts we serve on Sunday mornings? Can we eat that if we are hungry? And then there is the other question, “How poor?” How poor do we have to be to be considered a “charity?” Federal-poverty-guidelines-poor? Not-able-to-make-the-house-payment-poor? Or, how about not-able-to-pay-off-the-credit-card-poor?
Or, are we just discriminating against people who are poor and who don’t have homes, because we don’t like what we feel when we see them? The real issue, is not that there are hungry people out there, or that we serve food in church, the real issue is that we are afraid. Afraid to reach out a helping hand; afraid to see what the economy could do to us; afraid to face our worst fears…
We can minister to the poor…that’s a given. We can hold a worship service for them out on the front lawn. We just can’t feed them. We can’t fill their bellies with warm food. …We might as well just go to the street corners and start handing out money, in hopes they will make their way to some food, because you are not allowed to do it at church!
And since, when we give food to the hungry and poor, that somehow redefines us as a “charity dining hall”…who among us can eat at church? Can we put a donut or a sip of coffee in our mouths when we can’t do the same for the poor? In good conscience, can we eat anything on church property if we can only give food to the well-off and wealthy?
And I haven’t even asked the other questions about our freedom of religion…our country’s decision to let religious folk be free to act out our faith…
Too many questions bog down my heart….
Oh, but one more question that was pointed out to me a few weeks ago…I wonder if Jesus had a permit to feed the 5000, or to break bread at the Upper Room, or to turn the water into wine at the wedding in Cana?
My, my, my! What have we come to? Where’s the love? Will you pray with me?
Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank
CrossRoads United Methodist Church