When Destination Christian Reformed Church opens its doors to the community for a meal each Thursday evening, no one knows what the menu will be until people begin to arrive, ingredients in hand.
Stone Soup, a weekly gathering at Destination CRC in St. Thomas, Ont., is designed around a folk tale of the same name, in which one person invites her neighbors to come for soup made from stones. The neighbors, curious, agree to come, and each is asked to bring just one ingredient to enhance the soup.
Stone Soup began six years ago with the hope of creating a place of community where people can contribute and find fellowship in a shared meal. The community that formed has grown from six to an average of 60-80 people each week, with as many as 125 for four special holiday meals through the year.
Beth Fellinger, pastor at Destination CRC, said, “Young families, widows and widowers, singles and couples, working poor, pensioners, street people sit down together to enjoy the meal.”
As in the folk tale, people are often surprised at the tasty results. They arrive with ingredients—a bag of carrots, a can of soup, a pound of hamburger—and others contribute by helping in the kitchen or setting tables. “We have created some pretty incredible meals with the ingredients that come,” said Fellinger.
“It is very organic in nature, and so as long as people bring ingredients, there are people there to make the meal and keep it continuing,” she said. Vegetables come from a community garden at the church, and from a local farmer who donates extras from his stand at a weekly market. Meat or protein has appeared each week, including one gift of roast venison.
Stone Soup’s success has led to other opportunities for Destination CRC, including teaming up with local agencies to host food programs, cooking classes, a food box co-op, a winter farmers’ market, the community garden, and workshops on canning and preserving. Recently, the church won the People’s Choice Award at a local food event, and was recognized this month as a Local Food Champion.
The gathering began as a way to bring community to people who might not connect with the church in other ways, said Fellinger, and it has served that purpose well. “Stone Soup has become a wedding reception for one couple and a birthday party for others. It is a great night of community and a back door for some to be able to experience church outside of Sunday mornings.”