As they ate Wednesday night, the people remembered their last supper.
They ate tortellini with broccoli, turkey and cornbread, they remembered. They had ice cream for dessert and three kinds of cookies—chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and chocolate. They talked about their Christmases and their holidays in the church basement and they were done by 6:30 p.m., like always.
They didn’t know that would be their last supper they would eat at the First Baptist Church in Lebanon.
The church burned that night, Dec. 29, around 11:30 p.m., just after the weekly community dinner, which serves up to 30 people every Wednesday and continues to serve people even without the building.
The people who rely on the community dinners have continued to come.
“All I could say was, 'how cruel,'” said Dave Chase on Wednesday as he ate breakfast for dinner--pancakes, scrambled eggs and hash browns made by Andy Hill, a parishioner who owns the Lebanon Diner around the corner.
Chase has attended every community dinner since they started 15 years ago.
“I don’t cook,” said Chase who lives alone.
The community members take home bags of leftover food that they said lasts them all week. Some come to the dinners for the company.
“I kind of keep to myself (otherwise),” said Elizabeth West of Lebanon.
The dinners are considered a church mission. Church members contribute up to $100 of their own money and they take turns cooking, serving and cleaning.
This Wednesday the dinner was held at the Masonic Lodge up the street for the second time since the fire.
About 10 regular attendees sat at long tables in the basement. This space is smaller than their church. There is no elevator, which limits who can attend. The kitchen is smaller.
“You make do with what you got, especially in times like this,” said church member Chris Clark.
Clark and his wife Catharine started the community dinners as a way of helping their neighbors.
“We felt this is what we were supposed to be doing and we did it,” said Clarke.
The Clarks made the meal the night of the fire.
This is just one church activity that the parishioners have continued without fail since the First Baptist Church was destroyed. Clark said the location has changed, but the people haven't.
“The people are the church,” said Clark.
A Lebanon Historic Site Lost