Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Connecting a community at a Christmas dinner in a church basement December 13, 2018

A street-side sign welcomes diners to the free Community Christmas dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


EVERY COMMUNITY HAS ITS HOLIDAY TRADITIONS. There’s comfort in that sameness, in the sense of community constructed from repeating events. Faribault is no exception.

Each December the Paradise Center for the Arts features a holiday play. Every year the Rice County Historical Society hosts A French-Canadian Christmas at the Alexander Faribault House. Every December Shattuck-St. Mary’s School invites the community to A Campus Christmas Walk.


Dining at a previous Community Christmas Dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


And on one Sunday in mid-December, Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church serves a Community Christmas Dinner. There’s something about sitting down with others for a good home-cooked meal that fosters an even stronger sense of community. Food brings people together in conversation. We need more of that—pulling up folding chairs in a church basement to talk between bites of mashed potatoes and gravy. Comfort in food and in conversation.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo of a past dinner. This year pork will replace the turkey.


Fourth Avenue hosts its annual Christmas dinner from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. this Sunday, December 16. I’ve attended numerous times, photographed the event nearly every time. I delight in the words chosen to promote the dinner: Your Friends at Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church Invite you to be our Honored Guest at a day of Feasting and Fellowship with your Neighbors.

Reread that. Friends. Honored Guest. Fellowship. Neighbors.

Those words exude warmth, welcome and a sense of care and community. Your economic status, your job status, your situation—none of that matters. You are welcome.


Volunteer Madeline serves Christmas cake at a past dinner. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.


Welcome to enjoy a meal of roast pork and stuffing, meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, coleslaw, freshly baked rolls and Christmas cupcakes. The menu has changed slightly from previous years. But that’s OK. I like pork (actually more than turkey). And Christmas cupcakes can replace Christmas cake.


Volunteers hard at work in the kitchen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


I expect to see a crew of volunteers busy as ever cooking, serving, clearing tables, washing dishes… It takes a well-organized team to pull together a home-cooked meal for the community. I appreciate this gift which extends beyond those being fed. Monies collected from a freewill offering will benefit Operation 23 to Zero, which assists vets in need.


Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo. Be sure to read the sign on the wall above the kitchen window.


This Community Christmas Dinner is about so much more than food. It’s about care and comfort and connecting and community. And hope. It embodies the spirit of Christmas.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Connecting a community at a Christmas dinner in a church basement”

  1. Hope . There’s your word. The fellowship and community that is shared around tables is something that never gets old.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    When we first arrived in this corner of the state (45+ years ago) such dinners were so popular, as were farm auctions (that were a family event!) and barn dances (again, a family event). The dinners/suppers have remained to a lesser degree here but are extremely well attended. The sense of “community/fellowship” being renewed/reinforced by sweet conversation and treks down shared memory lanes. Such valuable times when personal/face to face exchanges have been replace by an impersonal, personal tech device that is seen in the hands of ALL ages. I often wonder what “traditions” will have a place in future generations’ memories. Hugs……………….

  3. Brenda Boone Says:

    I hope you are coming this year! I’m an honored servant of food Sunday!

    • I was expecting to hear from you and also to hear that you are serving. I hope to be there. But the granddaughter is coming this weekend so plans are not defined. If she’s with me, I’ll have to leave my camera at home and just enjoy the dinner. A 2 1/2-year-old requires Grandma’s attentiveness.

      Thank you, Brenda, for this gift your church family gives to our community. What a blessing to Faribault.

  4. Bella Says:

    i do agree fellowship and community gathering so embodies the spirit of Christmas and such an important piece of holiday traditions. And I noted the volunteers have such genuine smiles serving the public..

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