Juneau resident Kiatcha Lie attends the weekly Lenten luncheon at McPhetres Hall because she is hungry. But it's not necessarily the soup and bread that satisfies her appetite.
"I wanted more food for my spirit," Lie said. "The world demands an awful lot and it's hard to find spiritual food."
This year is the 36th year that some of Juneau's Christians have gathered for a weekly Thursday luncheon during the season of Lent. The luncheons feature soup and bread, provided by members of a different Juneau church each week, music from local church music groups, and a prayer and talk given by church leaders.
"Romans 12 says that if your enemy is hungry, feed him," said the Rev. Paul Beran of Resurrection Lutheran Church last Thursday, as about 50 people ate their meals and listened to him address the subject of promise and hope - the theme of this year's luncheons. Beran linked promise and hope to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
"What is more powerful than anger?" Beran asked. "Not bombs. Bombs destroy. Love. Love is more powerful."
Though not all Christian churches in town agree completely on every issue, coming together for the luncheons exposes attendees to different views, and provides valuable food for thought.
"I think what I love is that it brings us together as a Christian community, to see what we have in common," said Marie Helm, a Christian Science practitioner who has been attending the luncheons for four or five years. "I appreciate the opportunity to come listen to others."
The Cooperative Church Council, a group of Christian churchgoers who work collectively on projects such as sponsoring out-of-town speakers and holding weekly classes, began the annual luncheon series.
"Because it's several churches and not just one denomination doing it, it's something we can work together on," said Bea Shepard, a member of the church council who has been to about as many luncheons as anybody in town.
Lent, the 40-day period preceding Easter that is generally a time of restraint and reflection for Christians, is an appropriate time of year for the luncheons, said Beran.
"It's a special time of preparation for Good Friday and Easter," Beran said. Limiting the luncheons to Lent also decreases the pressure that a weekly lunch would place on local churches.
"They're for a certain period of time, but they're not forever," Beran said.
Each luncheon has a theme that connects somehow to the season of Lent, said Shepard, a member of Douglas Community United Methodist Church.
"It can be pretty broad," she said. "Sometimes we pick a Bible verse as a theme. This year we have a hymn for the theme, a hymn of promise."
Most attendees at the luncheons, held at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church's McPhetres Hall at Fourth and Gold streets downtown, pay a suggested donation of $5. At the end of the season, the Cooperative Church Council donates the money to a charity. This year, more than $495 has been raised for the Glory Hole. The year's final Lenten luncheon will be Thursday, April 10.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.