Visit the lower level of the Chapel most Wednesdays at lunchtime and you’ll be greeted by a buzz of activity. Beginning at 11:30 a.m., the Wesley Center hosts a free lunch that attracts one of the most diverse gatherings on the Oklahoma City University campus.
International students, dancers, faculty, housekeeping staff – the list goes on – come together for fellowship and good food.
Each week, a question printed on table cards invites conversation on issues of faith while people enjoy lunch. Some questions are more theoretical ("Can you be spiritual without being religious?"), but most seek reflection on current events from a perspective of faith ("How can we support people of faith when they are the victims of hate speech and violence?")
This tradition started a few years ago when Jennifer Long directed the Wesley Center, which is the United Methodist campus ministry at OCU. At first, Rev. Long and a few students cooked a simple meal for about two dozen people.
The ministry grew. It now regularly serves about 200 people, and sometimes the total is close to 300.
This academic year, the director of Sodexo Food Services on campus, Nirali Mickow, offered to help with the meal. Sodexo donates the food to provide an entrée, salad, vegetable, and bread for each diner. This wonderful blessing saves money for the ministry as well as time for the student volunteers, who previously shopped and cooked.
The Wesley Center provides paper goods, desserts, and sodas. And the ministry receives help with these as well. A monetary gift from the North Oklahoma City District churches funds most of those items and the pizzas served after Monday night Evensong worship. Lee Hall in the Academic Affairs office coordinated with Coca-Cola to make a generous donation of Coke and Dr Pepper products.
Additionally, local churches provide cookies on some Wednesdays, and students sometimes bake cookies and brownies.
"This meal offers our student interns and volunteers a wonderful opportunity to serve the campus community," said Rodney Newman, director of Religious Life. "We have a dedicated group that creates an atmosphere where all are welcome and where people see that the Chapel is a cool place to be. We appreciate all those who recognize the significance of this ministry by investing in its success."
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