At St. Bartholomew Church’s Thursday community lunch one can almost hear echoes of the old spiritual, “I’m gonna eat at the welcoming table one of these days.” But no welcome sign is needed here, and no identification is required. This a lunch table where everyone is welcome, where all people are honored and share fellowship as part of the same community, regardless of social or economic standing.
Karen Ladd, a lay minister and the pioneer behind the community lunch at St. Bart’s has been the inspiration for what’s become an incredible extension of hospitality to the wider Pittsboro community. Every Thursday at from 12-1, church volunteers serve a free lunch for anyone who might want to join, and the community shows up in a big way, with on average around 70 to 100 people every week. While some folks have been coming to St. Bart’s community lunch since its inception, there are always newcomers who arrive as total strangers and are welcomed as if they were regulars. Some people have, and some people have not, but at the community lunch differences are wiped away over a meal together. It is a sight to behold and experience.
“The amazing thing is that people come together that might otherwise never meet” says Karen Ladd.
Even in the serving line people greet one another as though family. The entire scene is full of spirit, enlivened by the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen and the chuckles and chatter of happy chefs. Before participating in the feast, Ladd gathers everyone into a circle to pray and within moments, blessings are given and stories are shared and no one can be called a stranger.
Farmer Foodshare’s Donation Station at the Chatham Mills Farmers Market has been donating food to St. Bart’s community lunch for the past couple of years. Every week you can find Dutch Buffalo Farm, Okfuskee Farm, and other local farmers at Market dropping donated veggies off at the Donation Station table. Mac Pullen, who volunteers his time at both the Donation Station on Saturday mornings and the St. Bart’s community lunch on Thursdays, has helped deepen our relationship with both the farmers and St. Bart’s. He can’t say enough about how much of an effect the donated food has on their ability to provide meals each week. You can find him at Market every Saturday telling the community about this amazing partnership.
“People need to understand that we rely on the fresh food from the Donation Station. It helps us serve people who come to the community lunch who otherwise would not get a fresh meal,” say Pullen.
Most of our Donation Station recipient pantries and agencies serve only low wealth families and individuals, with their primary mission being to serve the hungry. While the same can be said of St. Bart’s - that they too are serving the hungry, you get the sense that there is something even more grand happening here. They are satisfying a different kind of hunger. A hunger for belonging, acceptance, and community. A hunger for a just table – where everyone is invited to sit and eat together.
If you’re in Pittsboro on a Thursday around lunch time feel free to stop in and experience it for yourself! You will be invited to sit at the welcoming table too.