Westminster Presbyterian Church

Westminster Presbyterian Church, 17 William St., Auburn.

One of my fondest childhood memories is Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house. The smell of fresh bread in the oven and the sight of homemade spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove was the highlight of my week. I couldn’t wait for my family to gather around the table for dinnertime, and once there, I never wanted our time together to end.

As a former chef, I tried for years to recreate the recipe for my grandmother’s sauce. I bought the exact same ingredients, simmered the sauce all day and still the taste was never quite the same. As I grew older, I realized it wasn’t the recipe I was unable to duplicate, it was the experience. The food is what brought us together, it is what we enjoyed and shared, but my memories were really about family, tradition and love. Over the years I have prepared many meals for family and friends, and as a chef for people whose faces I would never see, but with each plate I gave a part of myself, my family, my culture, my heritage and my heart. Preparing food for someone is a loving, humbling and meaningful gesture. As Cesar Chavez said, “If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him. ... The people who give you their food give you their heart.”

Unarguably, food is an important part of life and culture, and the Bible weighs in on the topic as well. In the New Testament, multiple verses teach us that food is more than a substance for life. Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. (John 2:1-11) He fed a crowd of 5,000 with fishes and loaves, and broke bread with his disciples at the Last Supper (Matthew 14:20-21, 26:26). In each occasion, Jesus used food to teach a greater spiritual lesson while encouraging a more intimate relationship with his followers. Jesus used food to cross the divisions of language, politics, religion and socioeconomic status by sharing a meal.

But food is more than a social experience. For many, it is a daily struggle to eat, and in many instances knowing how, or having time, to prepare food that is not precooked or microwavable is a challenge and frustration. The Bible, however, teaches that there is a responsibility to feed the poor and hungry. In particular, Matthew 25 is a powerful command to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

So why is a church offering culinary classes for children? Because at Westminster Presbyterian, we embrace the command of Matthew 25. Westminster Culinary Kids will teach children basic cooking techniques, recipes and safety in the kitchen. But the goal is beyond culinary arts. The hope is to encourage our next generation of children to build relationships outside of their social norms and learn that preparing food that touches the heart and soul and creates memories is not found in a microwavable container.

Culinary Kids classes begin in March. Classes will take place on Saturday morning in Westminster’s kitchen, for church and community youth. Kitchen space is limited, so classes will be small and by reservation only. We hope that if there is enough interest that these classes will grow.

Culinary Kids is one of several new offerings through Westminster’s REACH (Relate, Explore, Act, Care, Help) program. Others include game nights (at Westminster and off-site at Genesee Elementary School), small group discussions, movie nights, a drop-in center and support group for youth, Scouting events, a children's worship center and a Matthew 25 Lenten series inviting our older children and youth to choose a mission focus for the church.

REACH is a new way of looking at children and youth ministries. REACH’s vision for children and youth at Westminster is one of transformative love:

• A place that welcomes all children and youth and empowers diversity.

• A life journey in which all generations collaborate to nourish faith, raise up leaders, and meet the needs of the community.

• A chance to wonder by asking big questions and exploring faith through multi-sensory experiences of nature and the arts.

• A modern spiritual practice involving the whole community.

We all look forward to see “what’s cooking” for youth and families at Westminster!

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Chris Patch is the children's and youth coordinator for REACH ministries at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Auburn. He holds a master's in theology from Northeastern Seminary. In a former life, he worked as a chef. He lives in Auburn with his wife Kim and their children.