Temple United Methodist Church feeding body & spirit 'one neighborhood at a time' with grant money


Free community lunches offered outside its church walls is how Temple United Methodist Church in Millington, Tennessee, is using its "Churches Reaching Neighbors" grant award. (Submitted photos)

When Janet Cyganek, member of Temple United Methodist Church (UMC) in Millington, Tennessee, described the church’s Free Community Lunch ministry, she cited the Great Commission as inspiration. 

“The Great Commission says, ‘Go,’” she said. “We wanted to provide a free community lunch that would provide food for those hungry in body and to be able to share with those hungry in spirit.”

Temple UMC funds the lunch ministry thanks to a $2,100 grant received late last year as part of the Memphis Conference Churches Reaching Neighbors grant program. Six churches were awarded funds after submitting ministry action plans, though one church has since returned its award. 

Cyganek, who acts as chairperson of the church’s Food and Faith Ministry, said Temple UMC serves between ten and 35 people every third Saturday of the month in locations around Millington. 

So far this year, the church has visited the Shady Oaks Mobile Home and RV Park, Regency Inn and Suites and a Millington Housing Authority neighborhood. During two colder months, they also delivered lunch to the Millington police and fire departments. 

“The families and individuals that have been touched by this Free Community Lunch are our neighbors, friends, strangers, individuals and families,” Cyganek said. 

To reach more people, Cyganek said, the church partners with other Millington public feeding programs, including Millington Food Pantry at Millington First UMC and non-profit Soul Ministries, which operates out of the Baker Community Center. 

Cyganek said she hangs flyers at the food pantry, while staff at Soul Ministries remind families of upcoming Free Community Lunch locations during their weekly Thursday meals. She said she also promotes the ministry using social media, flyers on community boards, posters and word of mouth. 

Cyganek said one of the joys of the ministry is serving people of diverse backgrounds with “radical hospitality.”

“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common,” she said. “Let it not divide us black or white, rich or poor, but celebrate it every day. Let us remind each other that a lot of different flowers make a bouquet.”

Despite a positive community response, Cyganek said she hoped more people would visit Temple UMC as a result of the ministry. Many she spoke with cited transportation challenges as an obstacle, and without a van or bus to pick people up, Cyganek said the church will need new strategies to meet that need. 

Still, she believes forming relationships in the community has been a good start, and the most important part of the ministry. 

“We have shown that love can create connection and make a difference,” she stated. “We have built bridges through building relationships.”

For more information on the Churches Reaching Neighbors grant and its recipients, CLICK HERE. 

~Compiled by John Vaught