It Worked for Us
Hot soup on a cold day. Is anything better?
Fairview United Methodist Church in Binghampton, New York, doesn't think so.
In Winter 2016, during what she described as "one of those cold, dreary, gray days in New York," the Rev. Jan Clark and church volunteers set up a table outside the church building with eight slow cookers, each filled with some kind of delicious soup.
The church is located on a street corner by a bus stop.
"Lots of people ride the bus, so it's a busy corner," Clark said. "People were waiting for the bus, and others were getting off the bus. When they saw our table and our sign that said 'Free Hot Soup,' they were really happy."
Church members gave away soup for about two hours, until the crowds diminished. Since they had soup left, they decided to take it and some church flyers to a nearby laundromat.
"No one is thrilled to be at a laundromat," said Clark, "but when we walked in with hot soup and gave it away for free to anyone who wanted it, they were happy."
They still had soup. (Is this beginning to sound like a story of loaves and fishes?) They took the soup to a second nearby laundromat and offered it to the people there washing their clothes. Again, people were very happy.
"There was still some soup left," Clark said. There were no more laundromats nearby, but there was an adult bookstore across the street.
"I'd never been in one of those before, but I thought, 'Why not?'" Clark said. She took her slow cooker into the bookstore and introduced herself to the owner. "Hello, I'm Jan Clark, and I'm pastor of Fairview United Methodist Church. I have some hot soup and wondered if you and your people would like some."
Clark laughed, remembering the shock on his face. "He didn't take any, but the person working the cash register was glad to get something warm to eat."
Clark has been at Fairview Church for eight years. When she arrived, the congregation numbered fewer than 40. Now, thanks to an emphasis on community outreach, they have grown to almost 100.
"We are committed to serving the community," Clark said. "We put up a prayer request box on the church on the side by the bus stop. One of the requests was from a person who said it would be great to have a bench there where people could sit while they wait for the bus. My goodness, that was certainly easy enough, so we built a bench."
Polly House is a freelance editor and writer based in Nashville, Tennessee. She recently served as editorial assistant for Intrpreter.