Long-Running Lunch Program at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul

Robert Sondak
Spare Change News

The Monday Lunch Program at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Boston was founded 29 years ago. Since 1983, this program has been providing a hot lunch every Monday at noon to people who do not have a kitchen of their own.

Membership has grown over the past three decades to a group of almost 200 patrons weekly. Members dine on a variety of pasta dishes, hot vegetables or tossed salads and homemade pastry prepared by a dedicated group of church volunteers.

Three regional metropolitan Boston churches partner with the Monday Lunch Program to prepare and serve lunch: the Trinity Episcopal Church of Concord, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church of Milton, and Christ Episcopal Church of Needham. Each church is assigned one Monday of the month to serve lunch. These church groups organize, buy and sometimes prep the meal in advance and serve lunch on their designated week.

The Monday Lunch Program gets about 30 volunteers each week from churches and the community. The volunteers include a core group of 8 to 10 people from one of the partner churches who prepare and serve lunch, and a second group of 10 to 12 people from other local churches. The third volunteer group consists of 10 to 12 community people who work in both the dining room and the kitchen.

“The Monday Lunch Program is a way to serve,” said the Rev. Cristina Rathbone of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. “The Monday Lunch Program acts as a catalyst for community building.”

Rathbone pointed out that the Monday Lunch Program gets no funding from the city of Boston, and that the member church groups raise program funds on their own.

Suzette, a member of Trinity Episcopal Church of Concord, mentioned that her church makes a tomato sauce in their own kitchen and serves it with hot pasta in Boston. She stated that they buy sliced bread and fruit salad locally and bring it to Boston to serve at lunch.

“We cook and serve one Monday of the month. We have been doing this service for almost 30 years.”

Suzette chronicled the history of Trinity Episcopal Church’s partnership with the Monday Lunch Program.

“Originally, we were a group of women with children who came here while our children were in school. We served lunch and returned home when our children got out of school. The Trinity Episcopal Church group has changed over three decades as our children have grown up and families have retired. Our core group now includes four men and four women.”

According to Chris Nourse, director of the Monday Lunch Program, pasta is served frequently. Nourse added that the meal program rotates the side dishes week to week depending on what’s in season, and they include a variety of different soups and tossed salads. He also said that they serve a fruit and pastry dish weekly.

One of the patrons of the Monday Lunch Program is Ed Larson, a Spare Change News vendor. Ed said that he has been coming to the program for a number of years, since he doesn’t have access to a stove to cook any of his food.

“The quality of the food is very good,” Larson said. “The food is simple yet very tasteful.”

Rathbone openly discussed the mission of the program. “We are one organization with a wide range of programs and services. We serve homeless and low-income people in need.”

The Cathedral Church of St. Paul runs several programs in conjunction with the Monday Lunch Program. The church operates a Leadership Team Council at 10 a.m. Mondays, one hour before the kitchen opens. This council provides focus for the church and direction for the lunch program. Approximately 20 to 30 people each week attend the council meetings. In addition to the council, the church facilitates a Tuesday meditation group, a writers’ circle and a newsletter commonly referred to as The Pilgrim. The Pilgrim features stories on different lunch program members along with their activities.

The church will also be setting up a library lending program to people attending the Monday Lunch Program, located in the same building as the Cathedral.

ROBERT SONDAK is a Spare Change News writer/vendor. Robert has a Bachelors Degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, College of Public and Community Service, (CPCS). Robert also minored in urban planning and advocacy. Currently Robert is the Executive Director of the Nutrition Education Outreach Project http://neopneopt.blogspot.com.

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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