A Night at St. Peter’s Cafe

This evening I had my first opportunity to be a participant at the monthly St. Peter’s Café (3rd Thursday). The Fellowship Hall was fragrant with yummy aromas, the tables were decorated with colorful tablecloths and fall leaves, and the places were set. The meal begins at 5:30, and a little after 5:00, people started to trickle in and sit down. Some were alone, some came as couples, and as friends. Some sat alone at tables that later filled up, some joined friends already sitting, and some came as multi-generational families.

The “Chef” for the night, Kay Regan, welcomed everybody, announced the menu for tonight’s meal. Then she introduced the two “Newbies”, Pastor Kristin and me. Chef Kay invited everyone to join in the table prayer (printed copies were on the table), and then the carts with salads started to roll out. It was plain to see that this Café was a finely tuned event. From dishwashers, servers, to cooks, everyone knew what to do and did it smoothly and graciously. I drew on my high school waitressing skills and began to offer refills on coffee, water and milk.

Having a coffee carafe or milk pitcher in my hand made it easier to begin conversations with the diners, and I began to learn names and hear some of their stories. I sat for a while with several widows, talking about the challenges of life after their husbands died, and how they helped each other. I met a retiree whose company benefits and health care benefits had been cut when the company was sold. He told me about the churches who offered meals like the one they were enjoying, and how it helped the budget for him and his wife to get nine meals a month from places like St. Pete’s Café. I tried to learn names, and thanked people for coming, and said how glad we were that they enjoyed the meal.

Now, while the final cleanup is going on, I sit and think about the evening, and how enjoyable it was to be a part of it all- offering a meal and gracious hospitality, smiles, brownies and an atmosphere that says, “You are welcome here. You are valued. You are our guests, and we want you to enjoy the food and the company.”

I think about the religious orders who follow the Rule of St. Benedict, which requires them to welcome everyone as they would welcome Christ.

And I think, “That’s what St. Peter’s Café is really all about.

It’s a monthly opportunity to welcome people as we would welcome Jesus.

It’s an opportunity to see Jesus in the retirees, the widows, the loners and the families.

It’s an opportunity to nourish both body and spirit, as Jesus did.”

And I came away nourished as well.

(If you haven’t had the opportunity to be a part of the blessing and ministry at the St. Peter Café, it happens the 3rd Thursday of every month, with the cooking usually happening the day before. Come and help welcome Jesus in the form of our guests! You won’t be sorry.)