As a part of my responsibilities as pastor of El Pueblito United Methodist Church from 1997-2018, I was immersed in the extension ministry that is called Shared Table.
How do we measure time? Birthdays, calendars, a wristwatch, a smartphone, a wedding anniversary, the passing of a loved one, a school graduation … yes, there are many ways to measure time. And yet perhaps the question we should be asking is, how do we measure service? Especially community service.
As a part of my responsibilities as pastor of El Pueblito United Methodist Church from 1997-2018, I was immersed in the extension ministry that is called Shared Table. I am pleased to join with so many others this year as we celebrate 25 years of Shared Table's outreach to the local community and beyond. What began in 1994 as a small but meaningful effort to help those in need has grown exponentially into a program that provides an assortment of food commodities and basic health care supplies to locals, twice a month, all year long. In my 21 years serving as the pastor and director of Shared Table, I would often receive requests from folks who wished to volunteer at Thanksgiving or during the Christmas season. I made every effort to accommodate their requests for service as best I could. However, I was quick to remind them that people also get hungry in February, June and September, not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Thus the reason the program was established: to offer food and health supplies all year long. Over the course of any 12-month period, thousands of locals are assured that they can receive some assistance to help with their basic needs. A small but dedicated staff and a reliable cadre of volunteers makes this possible along with the generous financial support of donors, both local as well as those who may live out of state. The program continues to evolve in new and exciting ways, whether by helping with school supplies or assisting seniors and the elderly with a special outreach program of food necessities.
I do believe that we really are our brother's and sister's "keeper." There are so many personal stories that come to mind over two decades of outreach and ministry. The goal of Shared Table and the church was and is to offer hope and a safe place to bring your questions or your needs. And although every crisis cannot be solved or quickly washed away, people appreciate a consistency of care. In these days of tension and political controversies, people understand the need to build more bridges to one another rather than constructing more walls that can and do divide us. Someone said recently that in times of obvious need and glaring inequalities that we should build longer tables and not higher walls. I subscribe to this philosophical outlook, as a pastor and as a human being.
When someone is in your office confronting a crisis of insurmountable odds laced with grief, poverty, the ostracism of family and other sundry realities, the least we can do is offer some help with a few of the basics. My experience is that if we can weave a small but meaningful amount of hope into this tapestry of need, people are more likely to leave with a recognizable smile that shuts out some of the tears that inevitably flow from daily living.
That's what community service is all about. That is what Shared Table has attempted to be about this last quarter of a century, with your help and the support of many. I am happy to say to you that Rev. Cheri Lyon, the newly appointed pastor and director of El Pueblito and Shared Table, along with her staff, volunteers and donors continue to distribute food, kindness and basic necessities to those who, for whatever reason, are experiencing their own particular economic struggles.
On Saturday (Feb. 16) at Taos Mesa Brewing, aka The Mothership, there will be an event open to the community to celebrate Shared Table's 25 years of service to the community. Mark your calendar and plan to join many that afternoon and evening for fun and celebration. If you wish to send a donation, volunteer or have questions, you may call (575) 758-3166 for more information.
Many years ago when I was asked to speak to some elementary students about our food program, a little girl spoke up and exclaimed to me words that I have always remembered and been inspired by. She said, "I like the Shared Table, because you might not think you need anything, but you just might."
Steve Wiard is the retired pastor/director of El Pueblito and Shared Table and a resident of Ranchos de Taos.
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