CLAYTON — First Baptist Church on Fayetteville Street is serving a free lunch every Wednesday this summer.
“For a while we have been thinking God may be calling us to a meal-service ministry,” said assistant pastor Paul Burgess.
The summer meal is at 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday. The menu is simple: a sandwich, fruit or vegetables, and a bag of chips.
“We recognize a need in helping kids who get Backpack Buddies during the school year and free and reduced lunch, and we thought, ‘What happens to those children during the summer?’ ” Burgess said.
On sunny days, the church offers the meals outside at the corner of Fayetteville and Whitaker street. When it’s rainy, the meal moves into the fellowship hall.
The weekly gathering is about more than food, though.
“We want to build relationships and sit down and get to know the people who come and spend time with them,” Burgess said.
One woman, who did not want to be named, brought her three children last week. She said she plans to start attending the church on Sundays for services, too.
The gathering is also a safe place for children to play and be a part of a community. Police officers are present at each gathering to eat alongside the guests and take part in games with the kids.
“We wanted the kids to see that police are a positive influence,” Burgess said.
In its first week, the church had about two dozen nonmembers show up for food. The second week, that number grew to 40. Rain the past two weeks has dampened attendance.
The meals, of course, go on. Last week, families gathered inside the church’s spacious fellowship hall. Children ate and watched a video, “VeggieTales,” then played games together while their parents chatted.
“We wanted to reach families right around us,” Burgess said. “Cooper Elementary School is right in our backyard.”