True religion: Caring for the hungry

Photos courtesy of Peter F. Johnson

By Peter F. Johnson, lead pastor of Hanoverdale Church of the Brethren in Hummelstown, Pa.

For years, our church hosted monthly community meals in our multi-ministry center. The kitchen crew made nourishing meals for about 200 people before children, youth, and adult midweek ministries would take place. Then COVID hit and all indoor eating meetings ended. In a time of health crisis and loss of jobs, food disparity became all the more prevalent.

Instead of closing the kitchen, we decided to double our efforts, sending out monthly mailers to households in our area letting them know that they could register for a free meal, and come to the front door of the church to pick it up in order to bring it home on a particular night each month. The response was tremendous.

Now three years later we continue to prepare, package, and provide monthly meals to between 500 and 600 people. Most recently, 650 meals were prepared and served on October 10, and 750 on November 14. In the bag with the meals we give information about our church and how to have a relationship with the Lord. On occasion people will ask for prayer, and we have the opportunity to pray with them in their cars before they return home to eat their meal.

Feeding the hungry has always been an important part of true religion. In Isaiah 58:10 we find, “Spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” James also showed how “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. . . .  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 1:27; 2:15–16). The physical food offered in true religion leads to lasting relationship when the Spirit of God then opens the heart, and a person’s spiritual hunger is met as they come to faith in Jesus Christ.

The Office of Mission Advancement of the Church of the Brethren is grateful for this reflection from Peter Johnson. It represents our passion to grow in authentic faith and care for the hungry—physically and spiritually. For more inspirational stories about congregations living as “Jesus in the Neighborhood” visit Learn more about the missions and ministries of the Church of the Brethren at

(Read this issue of eBrethren.)

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