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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Serving the poor with pasta & jazz

First Lutheran Church of the Reformation, New Britain, Conn., thinks out of the box. The pasta box. Since 2008, congregational volunteers have cooked a weekly dinner for the homeless and poor — serving ziti, sausage sauce, green salad, crusty bread and dessert to approximately 100 people.

"We're a ministry of service," said its pastor, Dagmar Rosenberg. "We felt a need here to help the poor. That's what our mission is."

First looks like a stereotypical granite church built at the turn of the 20th century. The 1903 building, with double bell towers, white granite steps and beautiful stained-glass windows, sits in a row of churches on Franklin Square, a once industrial area just west of Hartford. In stark contrast to the lofty architecture, rusty bikes are parked outside laden with Hefty bags of empty plastic bottles and backpacks brimming with belongings.

What happens inside is fairly unusual for a congregation of mostly suburbanites. When the dwindling congregation took stock of neighborhood needs, helping the homeless and the poor who congregated in front of the church was obvious. "God put this ministry right in front of our doors," Rosenberg said.

The Wednesday Pasta Night was started by five members, led by Leslie Marchesi, who recalls skepticism at first. "Only one person thought I wasn't crazy," she said, and that was Bruce Fletcher, a retired dentist and council member who was married at the church. But when teams of members showed up to help and 30 guests arrived for the first dinner, the church knew it was right. "If this wasn't God at work, it was nothing," Marchesi said.


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