|Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics and non-denominational churches came together to give thanks and support our local food pantry.|
First Dunedin United Methodist Church, in the historic town north of St. Petersburg, teamed with six other churches to host a Thanksgiving service Nov. 15.
Before last year, each church was doing its own thing and accomplishing little. There were dinners, but hardly anyone showed up for them. There were services, but few attended.
Over lunch last year, organizers decided pool resources and bring the churches together for one community event to benefit a good cause. Five years ago, with great effort, the churches combined to start the Dunedin Cares food pantry.
During that group lunch, the churches decided to host the service to support the pantry. They all participate through singing, scripture reading or providing the sermon.
This event is about mercy and justice.
The service, Knott said, can spread the word about “the pantry, itself, and its services and realize that there are people in our community that need food assistance. We have a couple pockets of food deserts in our city.”
There is a handful of homeless people in Dunedin, and nearly all of them attend Knott’s church. But numerous seniors on fixed incomes, disabled veterans, and families struggling to get by also use the pantry.
It’s all part of First Dunedin’s commitment to its city.
“We do community events often because there is always a parade or festival downtown. We are known as the ‘bathroom church’ downtown,” Knotts said with a chuckle, “because whenever there is an event, we open our church to the public.”
The church has done other projects as well, including several public art projects where the public was invited to come in and participate.
|First, Dunedin, is heavily involved in the community and recently held an ecumenical prayer service following the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Philadelphia. It also participated in a peace march with the local synagogue and mosque. -Photos courtesy FUMC Dunedin.|
“We have giant blackboards, and we put up a question for people to share their response,” Knott said. “It has helped us create some connections and build some relationships, and it is for them to share with each other.”
Like they did last year, the churches invited the food pantry CEO to speak and share stories about how it has impacted the community.
Knott’s church serves an average of 275 worshipers each Sunday with three services. It is a mixed group of old-timers and newcomers.
The third service is mostly for Dunedin’s large Micronesian community. About 70 people attend that service, which is conducted in their native language.
“Crazy thing, they just sort of found Dunedin,” Knott said. “They just happened upon it. They were part of another church that closed and merged with ours.”
It may be the largest Micronesian population outside of the federated islands, he said.
First Dunedin has been working hard to be the church that isn’t just for downtown, but for the community.
“We are at Douglas and Main Street,” Knott said, “right in the heart of it.”
--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer in Valrico