By Karrie Etzler
Residents of Rutland City and its environs were graciously fêted at a three-course culinary soiree, hosted by the Grace Congregational United Church of Christ (Grace Church), under its community outreach program on Sunday evening, Sept. 25.
The complimentary affair dubbed Welcome Table Dinner is a major event for the church, and is held on the fourth Sunday of each month, staring at 5:30 p.m., inside the church’s spacious welcome hall.
To say that dinner options were adequate would be an understatement. It was a dining extravaganza, complete with an array of menu options, inclusive of fruit salad, baked ziti, garlic bread, tossed salad, relish tray and an assortment of cakes. Hot and cold beverages were also available, along with the services of a waitstaff in the form of the church’s enthusiastic volunteers, who keenly ensured diners were well catered to.
Valerie Nowakowski, a regular attendee at Welcome Table Dinner, expressed her appreciation for the meal and for the work that Grace Church is doing for the community as she selected items for her main course.
“It’s fantastic!” she told the Mountain Times. “Every time I’ve come here it’s been outstanding. This has helped me so much to fellowship and grow spiritually, and meet other people from around the city. It’s almost like a big family and everybody just gets along.”
According to Reverent Tracy Weatherhogg, associate minister at Grace church, Welcome Table Dinner began in the fall of 2008 borne out of a desire to help community members in ways that were tangible, and which reflected the church’s mantra of caring for people everywhere.
“In response to the difficult economic circumstances in 2008, we wanted to reach out to those who might be struggling; but we also wanted to bring the community together, so we decided to do so by providing a free, sit down, community meal at the end of the month, where all are welcome,” Weatherhogg said.
In addition to sustaining its own outreach initiatives, Grace Church also plays a vital role in supporting other community-based organizations that are doing their part to help the city’s less fortunate.
“Grace Church tries to be a responsive and faithful member of our community, responding to needs as they arise, as well as initiating efforts,” said Weatherhogg.
“We support the work of local agencies such as the Community Cupboard, the Open Door Mission, Rutland County’s Women’s Network and Shelter, Dismas House, the Vermont Food bank, the Vermont Farmers Food Center and others, through physical donations as well as financial donations,” she continued.
Weatherhogg made a special note to thank some of the volunteers who have enabled the church to fulfill its outreach initiatives throughout each year.
“The church’s Mission and Service Committee has been responsible for the dinner since they began. Many people have been involved over the years but special thanks to Brandi Barclay, Marge and Jim Candon, Kris and Steve Charles, Wendy Daley, Dave Engels, Mark Miller, Sarah Pulcer, and Tracey Marsh who have served as coordinators,” she said.
In keeping with its community outreach agenda, Grace Church is again inviting the public to return to the church on Sunday, Oct. 2, for the inaugural Be The Church celebration. The event starts at 12 noon and will be accompanied by lunch, music, dance and other activities.
Photo by Karrie Etzler
Rev. Tracy Weatherhogg, associate minister at Grace Church, smiles as she brings out a basket of bread to diners this past Sunday, Sept. 25.