The Gathering: How Wednesday Night Meals Began

By Susan Shinn Turner

Last month, we told you some of the stories of the St. John’s “cooks in the kitchen.”

This month, we asked Georgi Goss to share her memories of how the Wednesday meals came to be, since she was instrumental in starting the Wednesday night gatherings. Georgi is the daughter of the late Martha Agner, who wrote a two-volume book about the history of St. John’s.

Here’s what Georgi had to say:

In early 1989, congregation member Meetta Lampert and Pastor John Derrick approached me about helping to establish a Wednesday evening dinner which could be followed by learning or art experiences. That way, adults who didn’t have children in the Weekday Church School program would have something to attract them to the church on Wednesday evening besides just food. That sounded like a great idea to me. Families who were picking up children from Weekday Church School could stay for dinner and then leave if they chose to. John suggested that choir practice and handbell practice could be moved so that they would immediately follow the meal.

I agreed to help Meetta with this project, which we named The Gathering. I would, as a volunteer, plan the menus, shop, and cook, as long as other volunteers helped cook and clean up. Meetta, with ideas from John and me in addition to her own wonderful ideas, would organize the classes and guest speakers.

The kitchen was in sad shape and we were told there wasn’t any money in the budget for commercial equipment. Something needed to be done, so I met with the building committee to discuss options. In preparation for the new demands on the old church basement kitchen, my husband donated two new oversized residential double ovens to the church, so that we would have four ovens available to cook in, and Bob Glover and his band of carpenters built cabinets to house them. It was an inexpensive remodel. At some point, someone came through with enough money for us to be able to add a commercial pass-through dishwasher with the requisite stainless steel counter attached. The remodel was completed quickly, before I began cooking at the beginning of September 1989.

Although I had grown up in a large family and could readily prepare food for large crowds, I wanted to be certain I wouldn’t let anyone down, especially Meetta, who was working to organize the after-dinner activities. So in preparation, I also visited and observed Mary Frances Roueche while she prepared lunch for the Rotary Club, which she had done for quite some time. She generously shared some large-volume recipes and so did a patient of my husband’s, who had been a cook in the military.

I planned the meals on Monday, shopped on Tuesday, and cooked on Wednesday. I checked on Thursday that the money taken in covered what we had spent on food. Volunteers from different Sunday School classes came on Wednesday to assist with the cooking, serving, and clean up. I met, and renewed acquaintances with, a great many members of our church. Helen Lentz, in particular, repeatedly volunteered, and Rita Bolick became my “right hand man,” helping every week. Rita and I became close friends; we each had two children, and I was pregnant with my third one for the last 3½  months that I cooked at St. John’s, although I told no one until the last dinner had been served at the end of May. Olivia was born in November 1990.

As far as I know, St. John’s has been able to offer the Wednesday evening meals every academic year since Meetta and I started the Gathering.

What a great legacy! Thank you, Georgi, Meetta, and all who have been a part of our Wednesday gatherings. As we prepare space for a new generation of ministry, we give thanks for those who have helped us get where we are today.

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