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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'Holy Hot Dish'

Serving meals makes sister congregations grow

Two congregations in Philadelphia didn't lose the "holy" when they went from serving hot dogs to a hot dish. That's right — what was once a "Holy Hot Dogs" meal served Saturdays to the community has become something more substantial: "Holy Hot Dish."

The way Ellen Daneke and Andrena Ingram tell it, St. Peter Evangelical (Lafayette Hill) and St. Michael (Mount Airy) are "sister congregations" in mission work that's not only holy, but healthy and helpful.

Sue Kammerle and Eudora Wiggins (right)
Sue Kammerle and Eudora Wiggins (right) work to prepare Holy Hot Dish, a community meal served at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. In the background are Iris Hernandez and Karen Rauscher.

Two years ago members of the churches became aware that 1 in 4 Philadelphians were one meal away from not having enough to eat, said Ingram, St. Michael's pastor. So during Lent a simple meal was offered to members on Thursday evenings, encouraging them to donate to a pantry what they would have spent that night on dinner. "When Lent was over, we wondered, 'What else can we do? People are still hungry,' " Ingram said.

In June 2010, without any funding but with the donation of buns from Amoroso's Baking Co. in Philadelphia, they began offering a hot dog meal every Saturday noon at St. Michael. Word spread, as did their desire to offer a healthier meal. Members of both congregations began making casseroles and side dishes. At that point they were launched into a "service life," said Daneke, a social ministry leader at St. Peter, four miles away.

From there, they began looking outside the congregation for funding. When they approached Whole Foods, they were given groceries each Wednesday, taking the donation to St. Peter for Thursday evening food preparation. Food they don't use goes to area shelters.


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