When the 45 middle school kids and adults from Charles River Deanery parishes sat down for a "hunger banquet" at Christ Church in Needham last month, four of them, selected randomly, were served a full meal at a table set with china. The rest of the group ate rice from paper bowls.
Afterward, the Rev. Chris Wendell, Assistant Rector at St. Andrew’s Church in Wellesley, asked the group what Jesus might have said or done about the inequity if he’d been there.
According to Becky Taylor, Youth Minister at All Saints Parish in Brookline, the answers went like this: "He’d be mad!" "He’d want us to share." "He’d be eating rice with us." "He’d get rid of the barrier between us and them." "He would offer a blessing for the food we had."
The Sept. 26 hunger banquet was part of the Charles River Youth Collaborative’s efforts this year to help members learn about hunger—both worldwide and close to home—and respond with hands-on service projects. On this night, the focus was the uneven distribution of food worldwide.
One of the deanery’s co-conveners, the Rev. Gretchen Grimshaw, Priest-in-Charge of St. Paul’s Church in Newton Highlands, talked with the group about biblical instructions regarding food: take only what is needed each day and share with others.
After the event, Grimshaw said, "One of the primary reasons that I am so happy to be in this deanery is that this sort of gathering allows the kids from my small parish the joy of a large group of peers in their extended community, and the gifts and graces of wonderful, talented youth ministers from other parishes."
Now in its second year, the Charles River Youth Collaborative is a ministry with middle school kids who are members of the 14 Episcopal churches in Brookline, Dover, Needham, Newton and Wellesley. Their activities together this year are about trying to heed Jesus’ call to his disciples in John 21:17 to "Feed my sheep."
"There are food pantries in each of our towns," Taylor said. "That means that some of our neighbors, maybe even some of our parishioners, don’t have enough money for groceries. This is a problem that touches all of us. We can and must do something about it."
Upcoming Charles River Youth Collaborative events include a pie-making party on Nov. 23 at All Saints Parish in Brookline (the pies will go to local food pantries), and, in 2009, a workday at the Heifer Farm in Rutland on March 7; a Good Friday "Stations of the Cross and Last Supper" at Grace Church in Newton on April 10; and walking as a team in the Project Bread Walk for Hunger on May 3.