“The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
– Matthew 25:34-40
This scripture is the vision that God gave to lay church-planter Samantha (Sam) McNally when she started up the Cootamundra Community Kitchen in 2010 to help feed locals in need. The idea for the kitchen came after she, along with her mother-in-law and a friend, attended a conference. “The conference speakers shared a piece on being the church to your immediate vicinity/home. Individuals spoke on how they had met people in their own neighbourhoods and became aware of the greater needs of those around them, and it really hit home with the three of us. We all sat there and realised that even though we were going to church, we were a bit insular…So we decided to meet people with hospitality. The three of us all loved to cook!” Sam explained.
But this was just one part of the puzzle. Sam hadn’t been in leadership long, and admits to being somewhat limited in her thinking of the kitchen. But after meeting with different people from the Baptist Association, Sam says her limitations were opened up, and she was shown new ways to think and walk in this original God-given scripture. “The first insight into everything was Jamie Freeman [Gen1K Mission Team Leader] speaking into what we were doing, and explaining to me that the kitchen was actually a church,” Sam says. “I’d never looked at it like that. He helped me realise the enormity of what we were doing. We knew the basics of what we were doing, but not the full picture.”
Jamie’s belief that our preconceived idea of what church is can at times be a barrier for people to step into God’s call to be a faithful presence in our neighbourhood, is what led him to speak into Sam. “Church is not something we do – it’s who we are as God’s people in a particular place, at a particular time,” he says. “What I saw in Cootamundra through the community kitchen was a beautiful expression of community and mission. The genesis of a new church. So we began to ask the question: ‘What does it look like to be intentional and lean into what God is already up to? How could Sam and her team bring in elements of corporate worship and discipleship? How could they spur one another on in the journey of becoming like Jesus and multiplying his life into others?’”
God has since used Sam to grow a fruitful ministry and now church community. “We’ve built relationships and had some amazing conversations – with people that you’d probably think would never talk about Jesus or ask for prayer,” Sam shares. “On the first night that the kitchen opened, we only had one woman come. Two years ago we decided to start doing Bible study after the meal…and that same woman was the first to join! The kitchen is also a ‘working development order agency,’ meaning people can have their state fines reduced by volunteering with us. There’s one particular woman who came in for that reason, and now it’s been 5 or 6 years that she’s been with us!” And this year, the team have implemented an ‘Adopt-A-Table’ concept, encouraging the local christians to come along, sit at a table, go deeper into relationship with the people at that table, and actually walk out that ‘Matthew 25’ scripture!
P R A Y / /
- Praise God for the people who have found home in the Cootamundra Community Kitchen church
- Pray for wisdom in keeping with Covid regulations and ensuring elderly volunteers, visitors and committee members are kept safe
- Pray that those involved would find joy in their service and not see it as a job, but as a calling
- Pray that your own church would consider how you are reaching out and responding to needs in your local community