On February 25th, Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, Executive Director of The BTS Center, shared a lunchtime Fireside Chat with Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill, ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), pastor of Ashburnham (Massachusetts) Community Church, and author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing A Relational Food Ministry, published in 2019 by Upper Room Books.
Drawing from her experience as co-founder of Worcester Fellowship, an outdoor church reaching adults without homes and people who are at risk of homelessness, Liz advocates for a particular way of organizing church-based food pantries and meal programs. She encourages congregations to move away from the transactional, direct-service model and adopt instead a relational approach that nurtures genuine connection with people who live with food insecurity — a shared ministry.
She writes, "Volunteering is not sufficient for ending poverty. Or homelessness. Or addiction. It certainly does not end oppression, even on a small scale. My Doctor of Ministry project suggested that shared ministry would change the world (and perhaps every doctoral student dreams of that), but it does not. Yet shared ministry did do something that I didn't expect: It created church."
What is church, then? More broadly, what is a community of faith? We had wide-ranging conversation about shared ministry, food, community, and service. Drawing upon her extensive study of church-based food ministries, Liz offered some insights about how eating and working together, listening deeply to one another, and focusing on authentic relationships can lead to a radically reoriented way of being a community of faith.
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Mae Magill (Liz) is a writer, pastor, and workshop leader living in Berlin, Massachusetts. She is the author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers: Growing Relational Food Ministries and the founder of Worcester Fellowship, an outdoor church reaching adults without homes. She earned her MDiv in 2002 from Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA and her DMin 2017 from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth,TX. Ordained with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) she works as an Interim Pastor for the United Church of Christ in Massachusetts. Liz loves crafts, music, skiing, travel, and her husband Ken. See more at ElizabethMaeMagill.com