Ascension Church to serve special dinner - third-world style

The Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Magnolia is well known to parishioners for the fine fare it serves at dinners, but the meal planned for Nov. 20 will be decidedly different.

Called a "Hunger Feast," the dinner is meant to mirror meals a cross-section of African society ends up eating most nights, said Betty Mueller, a church member who came up with the idea.

That means most folks won't get much of a meal at all, she explained. Here's how it works. Diners will receive a randomly selected ticket when they walk through the doors, and the ticket will determine which of three dinners they get.

For a lucky 15 percent, the meal will be like ones upper-income African families eat. It will feature wine, a generous helping of a rice-and-chicken dish "with a lovely sauce," linen napkins, a tablecloth and candles, Mueller said.

Another 25 percent of the dinner guests will end up with a typical African middle-income meal that will be dished up on paper plates and served on some old wooden tables, she said. "They will have beans and rice and probably some kind of drink like tea."

But the majority of dinner guests, 60 percent of them, will get a low-income meal of "just plain rice," Mueller said. That will be ladled out from a central bowl into smaller bowls. And forget a table. "Those that can will sit in a circle on the floor," she said.

There will also be a video, along with a scripted program that includes speakers going from one group to the next. "They take a fictitious person and talk about what happens in their life," Mueller said. The speakers can also order diners at the high-income tables to move to the middle-income tables and vice-versa, she added.

One of the speakers will be the new Suffragan Bishop, Nedi Rivera, a woman Mueller describes as a "very down-to-earth straight shooter" who will probably choose to sit on the floor with the low-income crowd.

The idea behind the Hunger Feast is to raise parishioners' awareness of hunger in Africa, and to give them a new perspective on the church's mission in the Central Republic of Africa, Mueller said. "So it's going to be a very rich program."

The evening concludes with free-will offerings that go to Heifer International in Africa, she said. Heifer International is a program that buys livestock for people in developing countries and teaches them how to raise them with an eye toward self-sufficiency.

The free-will offering from the Hunger Feast will be in addition to the approximately $1,300 the church has already raised for the program, Mueller said.

Mueller said she got the idea of staging a Hunger Feast from her daughter-in-law, who works in Rome on agricultural issues for the United States ambassador to the United Nations. Her daughter helped stage a Hunger Feast in Italy, and Mueller liked the idea. "I'm so excited about it," she added.

Reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at 461-1309 or by email at[[In-content Ad]]