Dishing Out God's Love
by Amy Banta*
The Central Texas Conference seems to be continuously finding new ways of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and Rev. Jason Valendy, associate minister at Arlington Heights UMC, is no exception. For him, “re-thinking Church” is more than just changing how the Sunday worship hour is conducted. After reading Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, he began to realize that as Christians, it is all too easy for us to “critique, condemn, copy and consume culture.” Instead, according to Jason, “…we need to help cultivate and create the values of the culture of God.”
A while back, he came across SundaySoup.org (an international network of meal-based micro-granting opportunities), which sparked an idea of how to bring the church outside its own walls and into the community. He believed this project would not only, “bring diverse people and organizations together for a purpose beyond themselves,” but would also give his local community a chance to “break bread together and promote the shared economy Christ taught us.” Bringing this idea to the table in February, he and four other members of Arlington Heights UMC (Robin Stout, Jenny Robertson, Van Burroughs II and Justin “Red” Sanders – the photo right is courtesy of Justin) began to put the project into motion.
On July 24, more than 160 people attended the first Fort Worth Dish Out. It was a successful gathering of people passionate about supporting new ideas, missions and ministries in the Fort Worth community. For $20, like-minded people came together in order to fellowship over a meal and participate in making someone’s dream a reality. Three fellow participants presented their ideas and everyone voted on the project they wanted to see put into action. Of the funds created through the sales made in meal tickets, 60 percent went to the project with the most votes and the other two each received 20 percent, insuring that everyone went home a winner. As we spoke about this event, Jason wanted to give a shout out of encouragement and congratulations to Cuisine for Healing, Tarrant Area Food Bank and Project 44 who was voted on as the evening's 60 percent winner. With this extra funding, Project 44 will continue to spread Christ’s love through an auto, gardening and counseling ministry. If you are in the 817, don’t miss the opportunity to take part in the next Fort Worth Dish Out, Oct. 23. If you are interested in bringing an event like this to your particular corner of the Central Texas Conference, Jason would love to help get you started (and once you do get it rolling, don’t forget to let the team at ctcumc.org know so we can tell your story too.
*Amy is a member of the CTC’s Center for Evangelism & Church Growth team and a regular contributor to news and feature stories here on ctcumc.org. firstname.lastname@example.org