High school lunch goes ecumenical


Cimarron, Kan., UMC joins with the community to reach out to high school youth

Wednesday lunch for high school students in Cimarron, Kan., has a special flavor, thanks to a community ministry begun in the 1990s. Through a cooperative arrangement with the school district, students may walk the five blocks to Cimarron United Methodist Church, where a group of women has prepared a home-cooked meal for as many as 120 students.

The meal is served family-style by the pastors in the community, including the Rev. Michael Keating of Cimarron UMC. “There is mutual respect between the school and the church,” he says. “We’re careful to get the students out on time and back to class.” Keating said that about a year ago, the school was forced to reduce the portion sizes of school lunches, making Wednesday lunches even more attractive.  Knowing that teenagers have big appetites, the pastors “just keep filling the bowls as long as they eat.”

Following the meal, one of the pastors delivers a three-minute devotion. There are usually five or six pastors who participate, representing various churches in the community. Each pastor has the opportunity to develop relationships, not only with the students from his or her own congregation, but also with those from other churches and those who are unchurched. These relationships are strengthened by interaction at athletic events and other activities.

Though the ministry was begun by the UMC and is housed there, the project and the cooks have become ecumenical. The current leader of the kitchen crew is a Roman Catholic.

When the students return to class, the pastors and kitchen crew have lunch together. That time has become the local ministerial association meeting. “By sharing a meal, we also get to know each others' family lives and personal concerns,” Keating said. “Dan Ferguson began the ministry during his time,” he continued, “and it’s a real blessing for any pastor who serves here.”

Rev. Evelyn Fisher, director
Great Plains Congregational Excellence