United Church of Christ

Minnesota church's Empty Bowls to feed hungry souls

EmptyBowlsAltar.jpgA Minnesota congregation is creating or collecting scores of handmade pottery bowls to help fight hunger in their community. The Empty Bowls project at New Journey UCC, Hutchinson, Minn. will bring people together to use those finished bowls during simple meal of soup and bread on Saturday, January 26. Love of neighbor is evident in this mission from start to finish.

"We're pretty excited about the Empty Bowls project," said the Rev. Jill Warner, pastor of New Journey UCC. "This is our second year and we're hoping to exceed last year's intake."

For a $15 donation, guests get their pick of one of more than 200 handmade bowls, which go home with their new owners after the meal.

"The bowls come from different sources," said Warner, who fell in love with making pottery while serving in South Dakota. "A local potter and I throw some of the bowls. A wood turner made a couple for us last year. The pottery shop north of town has open house nights when people can try their hand at the wheel. Anything worth saving is trimmed and glazed to be offered at the event."

EmptyBowlsHands.jpg150 bowls have been created for the Empty Bowls event this year, with church members hand building more than 80 of them.

"Most fun for me are the community building days," Warner said. "People of all ages come together to create a bowl with slabs of clay, using plastic or compostable bowls as forms."

New Journey held three pottery-making sessions — one a month in September, October and November — and the artists gathered once in December and again in January to continue the creative process.

"We have a variety of stamps for decorating," Warner continued. "We hold an all-day glazing party once the bowls have been fired. We're about half-way through the final glaze firings right now and looking forward to the event."

EmptyBowlsPotters.jpgEmpty Bowls isn't an original idea. A Michigan art teacher cooked up the project in 1990 to give artists and art students a chance to make a difference. Since then, people across the country — potters, glass artists, wood turners, students and church groups — have been creating bowls and holding community meals to raise money to alleviate hunger in their local areas.

Last year, New Journey was able to donate a total of $1,500 divided between two charities; the county food shelf and the school weekend food backpack program of "Common Cup", which the church also supports through ministry.

As the church's open invitation to the Hutchinson community states, "The simple serving of soup and bread you share today acknowledges that not everyone has the luxury of an extravagant meal. We invite you to take home the empty bowl of your choosing as a reminder of the many neighbors whose bowls are empty far too often."

This story, highlighting the ministry of a local church, is part of the UCC's 3 Great Loves campaign, seeking to build a just world for all as one united church. Visit 3GreatLoves.org to learn how we’re showing Love of Children, Love of Neighbor, and Love of Creation.

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