Jacqui Lewis & Middle Collegiate Church Of NY Spreads A Message Of Social Justice With Soul Food
While consumers scramble to finish their holiday shopping, Rev. Jacqueline “Jacqui” J. Lewis is spending her days on the Middle Collegiate Church of New York’s Soul Food Truck.
For 25 years, volunteers at Middle Church have been hosting feeding programs and the Soul Food Truck is its latest venture that will provide hundreds of hot meals to the homeless at Tompkins Square Park. The truck, which will offer macaroni and cheese, collard greens and fried chicken this Sunday, will operate solely through donations, providing the meals for free.
While she is the first African-American woman to hold a senior minister position at Middle Church, Lewis is also a nationally recognized author, activist and speaker. With a fierce commitment to social justice, Lewis has made it her mission to tackle issues surrounding racial, economic, and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) justice. The Princeton graduate can even be caught on MTV’s “MADE #Dream Bigger” performing a same-sex marriage.
Lewis, who believes that our “spirits are nourished by good food served with love,” said it’s in her calling to “care for the hungry and treat each person with compassion.” And The Soul Food Truck, with Lewis at the helm, will do just that.
MadameNoire: On December 15, Middle Church launched its Soul Food Truck. How did you come up with this idea and how many people does it feed/reach?
JL: We have been preaching about God’s economy for the last few years. Our sermons, in which everyone will have enough, have resonated deeply with our members. Two of them — Renee Boyd and Kele Nkhereanye — decided to open a pantry in a space they own. Then they decided to use their food truck so we could give hot meals to the hungry. We are also a community center that offers packed grocery bags to hundreds of people each month from our food pantry and we offer hot meals to people living with HIV and AIDS on Monday evenings. Our Butterfly program, started by long-term member Danita Branam, enables us to take sandwiches to Tompkins Square Park and to Union Square but went on hiatus on December 8. Now with the Soul Food Truck, we will have no gap in service.
…Our social justice budget helps fund the truck, which means offerings and donations from Middle members funds it. We have also received generous donations from Cabot Creameries so we can do great mac and cheese.
MN: What do you hope to accomplish with the food truck besides feeding people?
JL: We hope the Soul Food Truck will message the Ubuntu philosophy: I am who I am because of who we are together. We hope those who see our truck will be drawn to acts of kindness and we hope they will follow the truck back to Middle Church and come to worship, maybe even join our community. We think we are more than a congregation, we are a movement for justice and love. We hope people will join this movement. Each of us has a thing we can do, a gift we can give to alleviate suffering, to make the world a better place.