It was Sunday afternoon and the Beeton Cupboard was bare.
The Beeton Cupboard, named after Elizabeth Beeton, who died of liver cancer many years ago, has been serving the hungry for 40 years. But recently, after being so strong for so long, there was a problem: the demand was increasing and there were not enough donors to fuel the supply. St. Michaels’ Anglican congregation has faithfully maintained this food bank through the years – and thanks be to God for them and all their dedicated giving – but the supply was not able to keep up.
We were at a crossroads. We had a choice to make: turn around and continue to tread along the track we knew so well, trying to pick from the same old tired trees, or be brave and reach out to forage new territory. It was a bit of a no-brainer really, so we did the obvious thing: we asked our neighbours to help feed our neighbours.
St. Michael and All Angels (home of the cupboard), is located in the bustling community of St. Clair and Wychwood avenues in midtown Toronto, seated in the heart of a neighbourhood that celebrates a rich and diverse group of ethnicities, religions, ages and financial situations. And as if all that wasn’t good enough, St. Michaels is blessed in being able to share space in the church with the Toronto Partnership Minyan Jewish congregation, who meet every other week in the building’s gymnasium for Shabbat services. But though we share this house of God, our times to interact were beyond minimal. We were busy “being” for God – so busy, in fact, that we couldn’t see our neighbours in the midst.
That is, until the call for help with the food bank.
When St. Michaels posted a call on the community social media page asking for donations to the food bank, the Toronto Partnership Minyan responded in a way that has demonstrated the incredible beauty that can happen when children of God (regardless of faith) join together to care and support children of God (regardless of faith). Here we have a church and synagogue joining together to share God’s love with those who are in need. Call it what you like: within 48 hours (and this is not an exaggeration) those barren shelves, thanks in large part to the Toronto Partnership Minyan, were heaving with food. More than that – we had over $1,000 in pledges and a donated freezer on the way.
The psalms are scriptural passages that speak to both Jews and Christians. Psalm 146:5-7, as translated in The Jewish Study Bible, reads: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who secures justice for those who are wronged, gives food to the hungry.” Here we were, Christians and Jews, sharing our love and faith in God in practical ways for the goodness of God’s creation.
When we went and met with the shul to offer our heartfelt thanks on behalf of the church, we were met with great warmth and wonderful hospitality. It was there that we were able to share with the congregation comments that were made by so many people in the neighbourhood: “I’m Jewish – this is my mitzvah”; “I don’t believe at all. It’s my gift for humanity”; “I just want to help out.”
Sometimes in life there are amazing moments when what it is that makes us different and unique is also what brings us together. Filling up the Beeton Cupboard Food Bank was one of those experiences. And for that, we give thanks to God. May your ministries be blessed.