A tradition that welcomes people of all faiths to gather for an afternoon of food, music and camaraderie once again filled St. John’s Presbyterian Church with smiles, laughter and mouth-watering aromas.
The fourth-annual interfaith lunch – prepared and served by volunteers of all ages and beliefs, led by the Interfaith Bi-Weekly Food and Clothing Ministry – drew around 100 guests to the White Rock church Monday for a home-cooked meal that included salad, naan, lentils, paneer, rice and more.
Organizer Arun Chatterjee said there is so much more to the offering than the food itself.
“It’s giving our presence to each other,” Chatterjee told Peace Arch News, between stops to chat with guests at the tables.
“Connecting, kind of transcending the boundaries… know that we have different faiths but we can still connect.”
Chatterjee (pictured at left) said the lunch also helps fill a gap. Attended by many seniors and homeless, it is the only community lunch available in the White Rock area during the holiday season this week. Other efforts – including the Lunch Hut, held Fridays at St. John’s, and the King’s Banquet Soup Kitchen, offered on Tuesday evenings at Star of the Sea Hall – take a short hiatus. (The Lunch Hut is to resume its weekly offerings this Friday; the next King’s Banquet is set for Jan. 10.)
“They can come enjoy each other’s company and presence,” Chatterjee said.
Monday’s lunch – described by church representative Sheila Jakus as “a banquet” – started with a series of prayers.
Many guests thanked those who prepared the meal, describing the food as “amazing” and the portions as “excellent.”
Volunteer Kanu Sharma, a Chilliwack resident, said it’s something he gets involved in “to find solace, peace in my own heart.”
“I want to give back, do what he can,” he said.
Sharma noted the meal “comes with a lot of love and affection.”
Fellow volunteer Kamal Hingorani added that “everything is healthy.”
The volunteer contingent included students from Semiahmoo Secondary, H.T. Thrift Elementary and Simon Fraser University.