Trinity Lutheran Church in Exeter holds 6th annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner for homeless, hungry and lonely to share food and fellowship
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
EXETER – Generations of families gathered around a grand home-cooked meal. Friends unable to travel home for a weekend sharing take-out and wine. Those fighting for our freedoms overseas sharing a meal with fellow soldiers while they exchange stories of those back home. No one should be alone on Thanksgiving, yet many Americans are.
Whether they are new to an area, estranged from family, financially unable to travel where loved ones are, or physically unable to leave their house, many Americans across the country often spend Thanksgiving in solitude, some by choice, but many out of circumstance.
But there is sanctuary from solitude on Thanksgiving thanks to the Trinity Lutheran Church in Exeter. Six years ago, the church congregation began holding a Thanksgiving Day Dinner with an open invitation for anyone to attend, especially those who don’t have anyone to share the holiday with.
“Our emphasis is on those that are homeless, struggling to put food on the table, lonely or just longing for a sense of community,” said Pastor Joel Luckemeyer. “Jesus commands us to love ‘the least of these,’” referring to Matthew 25:40.
On Thursday, Nov. 23, Trinity Luthern will be serving a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings, including deep pit turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, bread and butter and pumpkin pie. Beverages will include water, tea, coffee and milk.
Luckemeyer said the church was expecting about 300 people to attend this year’s meal. As one of the newest pastors in town, Luckemeyer said his first experience of the significance of the event last fall was hearing people talk about what their holiday would have been like without the community meal.
“The biggest comments I heard were that people would be by themselves eating a turkey sandwich,” Luckemeyer said. “Instead they come here and are seated and served by members of our congregation.”
About 25 church members volunteer their time on Thanksgiving day to set the table, make last-minute preparations and nearly everyone in the congregation plays a part in preparing food, decorations or sending out invitations. Luckemeyer said emails and addresses are collected each year so that those people will be formally invited back the following year.
“I think it’s great that our congregation has made a decision to sacrifice their personal Thanksgiving to make it better for those without families to gather with,” Luckemeyer said.
Many of those congregation members bring their entire family to help with the church-provided supper, even those visiting from out of town. Luckemeyer said his parents thoroughly enjoyed helping out at the meal after flying in from out of town.
“This is their Thanksgiving dinner and their family’s Thanksgiving dinner,” Luckemeyer said.
The meal is offered in from noon to 3 p.m. where people can come and grab a bit to eat or stay for the entire three hours for fellowship and conversation.
Trinity Lutheran Church is located at 420 Sequoia Drive behind the Exeter Memorial Building. Those who can’t attend because they are physically unable to or can’t find transportation can call and request that a meal be delivered to their home.
For more information, call Trinity Lutheran Church at 559-592-4070.