By The Rev. Rick Mason
Community Lunch was founded in 2017, by leaders from Shepherd of the Sea Lutheran in Murrells Inlet, and three other churches in the area, with the simple desire to feed hungry people on the South Strand. It was determined that they would serve a sit-down lunch every Wednesday. The desire was to provide their guests with a restaurant experience. Guests are greeted at the door, seated at tables, their drink orders taken, & the food is brought to them. When possible, live music is provided (often by the church pianist). Volunteers serve the guests and clear the tables, with the guests free to linger over coffee and conversation.
This Community Lunch served 95 meals on its debut in June 2017. Since that time, it has grown in many ways. Not only have they increased the number of weekly meals served, but have also provided guests with medical, legal, social, and spiritual assistance. Community Lunch reached a maximum of 246 meals served using the sit-down style; and then the Covid-19 pandemic arrived. They then began serving drive-through-style meals on March 25, 2020, and are averaging 120 meals served via the drive-through method.
Of course, a drive-through does not provide much, if any, fellowship, so Shepherd of the Sea has sponsored two Care Fairs to assist guests with services in medical, legal, social, and community areas. In addition, a local produce market has provided free fruits and vegetables. The Community Meals group plans to re-open the sit-down style meal service when the Center for Disease Control assures that it will be safe to do so. Until then, they will continue to provide drive-through lunches every Wednesday.
Wendy Schifer, a Hunger leader at Shepherd of the Sea writes, “Our mission is significant in several ways. First, and foremost, we try to behave as Jesus has commanded us: we serve others. The impact upon our guests, our volunteers, our congregation, and our community is tremendous. Our guests are grateful for the sustenance, both physical and spiritual, which we provide. We have a corps of 15-20 dedicated, dependable, hard-working Christians who gladly report to serve, and willingly assist in any way to provide meals to our guests. Our congregation has generously donated funding to help assist us in providing food, supplies, utilities, and a building to support this mission. As a result of Community Lunch, other community agencies have been able to reach our hungry population and help them with health issues, housing, and job training.”
Shepherd of the Sea Lutheran Church has used the funding from an ELCA Domestic Hunger Grant to purchase commercial-grade steam pans, cutlery, and a moveable freezer to safely store meats for the Community Lunch. It has also helped in purchasing food and supplies.