If you drop by the Cathedral on any Friday around 11 am, you are sure to notice the buzz of activity that precedes the Friday Mission Lunch. If you come inside, you will also notice the smell of delicious food and hear the laughter and hum of activity wafting out from the kitchen doors.
Our guests can often be found chatting in the narthex, relaxing in the nave or sitting outside in nice weather. Many travel for over one hour from all over the Paris region by train, bus and foot to make sure they arrive on time to the Parish Hall.
You might see one of the friendly volunteers come out at around 11h30 with a music stand to check in each guest. You may even have to fight your way through the crowd if you have a meeting at the church scheduled at the same time.
Why is the Lunch so popular? Our guests tell us that this is the best free lunch in Paris and that they can taste the love and the attention to detail put into every meal. They also appreciate being welcomed to sit down indoors and be served on real plates, with real cutlery. They have time to catch up with friends and feel part of the community.
The activity is equally as popular for the volunteer teams that sign up over one month in advance for the opportunity to come and help set up, chop, cook, stir, cut bread, wash lettuce, make coffee, fill water pitchers, and any other small tasks that need doing for the lunch. Our volunteers also appreciate the time they have to talk and meet new people while making a difference in their community.
If we happen to be near an American or French holiday, and you peek inside the Parish Hall, you may even see the tables fully decorated for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Bastille Day or St. Patrick’s Day. Our creative chef coordinators love to host theme-based lunches to make it fun for the guests and volunteers alike.
At 12h20, sneak into the kitchen to hear Italo, Kristie, Sue, Toni or perhaps another regular give « the speech ». It is a short overview of how the meal is served, some reminders about not giving away too much bread or serving desserts slowly, followed by a group prayer.
Exactly at 12h30 is show time! We gather together to give thanks for the food and the community, finishing with a very welcoming « Bon Appétit » You may also hear a song or two on special occasions.
Three courses are served effortlessly with the help of the « Air Traffic Control » volunteer, who makes sure every table is served in an orderly fashion. Then it is time for clean-up! Many of the guests help put away their chairs, clean tables and fold tablecloths, while the kitchen crew enters a whirlwind of dishwashing, cleaning and scrubbing.
If you drop back by at 2pm, you may not even know that any event has taken place in the Parish Hall or the kitchen, because everything is so clean and calm again.
Our guests leave with very full stomachs, and happy faces, glad of the opportunity to come together and to take a break from the rest of their week. Our volunteers leave with happy faces, and the good kind of exhaustion.
Thank you to everyone who participates in this program by volunteering their time and through your generous pledges every year, of which 10 percent is given for Mission and Outreach initiatives like the Friday Mission Lunch. Thank you also to our partner churches and organizations which help make this happen each week – The American Church in Paris, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, The Bridge International Church, Kehilat Gesher synagogue, The Association of American Women living in Europe (AAWE), and Salesforce.com France.
Please write to Ann Dushane at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to sign up for an upcoming Friday. The team can always use people who like to cook, but there are no requirements to join the fun. Currently, we are also looking for someone to help with the volunteer scheduling done by email. During this Lent season, you can also contribute dry goods that really help keep our meal budgets on target.