Sack Lunch Ministry Grows at Emmanuel, Champaign

contributed by Mother Beth Maynard

Emmanuel’s long-running sack lunch ministry, along with feeding 24 people every weekday, gives several laity a chance to serve in ministry.  Most morning distributions are covered by one of six lay volunteers, who greet guests at the door with a smile and a packed lunch — sometimes offering additional items like cough drops, hand warmers, donated fruit or other treats. A small group of Emmanuel regulars also forms the backbone of the sack lunch packing ministry, gathering every few weeks to assemble lunches whose ingredients largely come from the church outreach budget.

In mid-November, however, Deacon Chris Hopkins arranged a way for a much larger percentage of the congregation to get involved. Both Masses gave up their coffee hours, and perhaps 75% of worshippers headed off to four large assembly lines filling the first floor of the education wing and part of the parish hall to pack lunches together. Children, elders, and adults all participated, along with some of Emmanuel’s Choral Scholars and at least one first-time visitor that day. Those who needed to sit rolled plastic forks in napkins, and another crew worked in the kitchen breaking down emptied cardboard boxes for recycling.

The 8:00 Mass completed roughly 100 lunches, leaving 500 to go toward the day’s goal of 600. But when the 10:15 Mass emptied the last box of Vienna Sausage cans, the final total was 720 sack lunches completed — enough to take the ministry through Christmas.

Emmanuel has previously offered sack lunch packing opportunities to local schools and others looking for community service events. A new initiative is the creation of an Amazon Wish List for the ministry, where people can purchase supplemental items that are needed and have them shipped directly to the church (visit )

Through this ministry, the homeless and working poor receive a nutritionally balanced meal that helps them make ends meet in a setting where they are received with respect and kindness in the Name of Jesus.

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