Clergy Corner, Oct. 12, 2018

Clergy Corner, Oct. 12, 2018

Each Monday afternoon, dozens of volunteers gather in the basement of Community United Church of Christ on the University of Illinois campus with one purpose: to feed the hungry.

Many of them slice vegetables or stir food cooking over the church's stove. Some set the tables. Others prepare to serve as waiters or waitresses.

Just before 5 p.m., all of them form a circle in the kitchen and stand, elbow-touching-elbow, as the Rev. LEAH ROBBERTS-MOSSER gives a pep talk filled with inspirational words of wisdom.

Then everybody takes their places as the doors open. University students and community members sit at tables, receiving nourishment from the eager volunteers. Everybody smiles.

It's all part of the church's Jubilee Cafe, a ministry that just celebrated its first anniversary.

"The Jubilee Cafe is a weekly free dinner that is served to anyone who cares to eat," Robberts-Mosser said. "It is served restaurant style, so there's no serving line. We have volunteers who act as waiters and waitresses."

Robberts-Mosser said the cafe has its origins in a mission trip by Community UCC members.

"We have taken adults on mission trips since I arrived here eight years ago," she said. "Sometimes, you have to leave home in order to see home in a different way."

One of those mission trips took church members to Memphis.

"We were so impressed with the feeding ministry at the United Church of Christ ministry that we worked with in Memphis," Robberts-Mosser said. "When we came home, a small group of folks asked the question of what it would be like for us to do that here in Champaign-Urbana."

After spending several months planning the project — figuring out how many volunteers would be needed and raising enough money to fund the weekly cafe for an full year in advance — the Jubilee Cafe was born.

"Jesus' ministry was one that affirmed each person's humanity," Robberts-Mosser said. "That is why we chose to present this restaurant-styled. We wanted to make sure people knew they were being paid attention to every week."

Parish members, college students and members of the community go to the website to volunteer for the Jubilee Cafe.

"We average between 20 and 24 volunteers on a typical Monday," said cafe manager JOHNELL BENTZ. "During the school year, we average between 45 and 50 meals per Monday."

Robberts-Mosser makes a point of talking with all the cafe guests.

"I consider it an additional congregation on Monday nights," she said. "We feed hungry community members, but we also feed college students. There is a lot of food insecurity on campus."

Overall, the cafe has served more than 1,800 meals over its first year of operation.

The Jubilee Cafe is open every Monday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at 805 S. Sixth St., C.

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Topics (3):Food, Nutrition, Religion