Poetry is to blame.
It’s poetry that launched the partnership between the Davies Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and No Child Goes Hungry, and it’s poetry that first inspired the strides we’ve made together toward hunger relief.
Davies has a long and productive history of using poetry to explore social justice issues. Thanks to an especially creative congregation and to the leadership of professional poet Hiram Larew, the congregation has brought the mystery and beauty of language to its worship services, addressing some of the challenging questions of our time.
One of those services, in October 2021, was titled “Speak Back to Hunger” and featured poets from as far away as Ireland. It was a hugely moving experience, and it seemed important that we follow it with a super-practical, get-it-done worship service that would provide the congregation with practical guidance on how to address hunger in its own neighborhood.
That’s where Rev. Kären Rasmussen and No Child Goes Hungry came into play.
Rev. Kären was our guest preacher the next Sunday, sharing insights on how to address hunger in sensible ways that were manageable for a small congregation. Soon, Davies was the recipient of a $1,000 grant from No Child Goes Hungry and on its way to making a tangible difference in the neighborhood.
With guidance from Rev. Kären, a handful of lay leaders at Davies put together a modest hunger relief program. It included the deepening of our partnership with the Oxon Hill Food Pantry, where congregants became key members of the volunteer force. It also involved the planning, purchase, and construction of a Little Free Pantry – one of those great ideas that sparks from multiple creative minds simultaneously.
The Pantry’s success now rests on several elements:
- Congregants sign up to be a “Pantry Monitor” for a single Sunday. This simple job includes making sure the Pantry is stocked from a supply of donated goods kept in the building, that none of those items are in glass containers, and that none are expired.
- To get the word out, lay leader Sheri Verdonk and I, emailed the Principals, Vice Principals, Health Teachers, and Nurses at every school within reach of the church, urging them to alert families who might be in need. We emphasized that the pantry has items especially handy for a student walking home from school.
- Perhaps most intriguing, we paired the erection of the Little Free Pantry with the painting of a large mural, commissioned from local artist Luther Wright and completed by our Davies children under his guidance. The bright, sunrise spirit of that mural now draws the eye to the Little Free Pantry that stands proudly beside it.
A year after Rev. Kären’s first visit to Davies, she returned to join me in the Sanctuary for a service titled “Feeding Body and Soul.” After the benediction, I had the honor of accompanying her across the parking lot, where she blessed our Little Free Pantry and the congregation that had made it all happen. It was a poetic moment.
Written by Reverend Norman Allen
Davies Unitarian Universalist Congregation