As soon as you walk into Central Lutheran Church, you’re hit with the aroma of the evening's dinner. It’s a little whiff of home, away from home. Sister Clare and her husband, Chef Ryan, are the caring individuals behind Hearth & Table. What is Hearth & Table you ask? It’s a program run through the Campus Ministry and composed of three different elements:
1. Feeding students nutritious meals once a week
2. Equipping students with cooking skills and gaining confidence in the kitchen
3. Creating an off-campus community where students feel like they belong
College can feel isolating, especially if this is a student’s first time living away from home. Sister Clare is passionate about creating a family away from home. While enjoying a delicious, vegetarian meal, students are able to interact with peers in circular tables; creating the feeling of a family meal. While students are eating and mingling with their peers, Sister Clare and Chef Ryan’s four year old daughter is running around making friends with everyone.
In addition to the meal, students are provided the opportunity to learn from Chef Ryan if they sign up for the community kitchen workshop before the meal. Often, students are cooking for the first time in their life and it can feel daunting. Chef Ryan is able to teach students how to be safe in the kitchen, how to chop veggies, and how to make a great meal with a random assortment of ingredients. The great part about Hearth & Table is the ingredients used in the meals come from the Student Food Pantry and FOOD for Lane County. Utilizing resources that are already available, woo!
As mentioned above, Sister Clare and Chef Ryan are the humans behind the Hearth & Table. Sister-Clare has always had a passion for working with and serving people. When she started college, she intended to become a social worker. However, she graduated from college with a degree in Religion and Women’s & Gender Studies. After undergrad, she decided to take a gap year with a volunteer corps program in Seattle, WA, working with environmentally-conscious faith communities seeking to be “greener” in their impact. As she was preparing to graduate,, she began making a lot of realizations. She came to understand that she was most energized by connecting with people. Furthermore, she also came face to face with the construction of her world from a perspective of privilege.
After her year of service, she went to graduate school to earn her Master’s in Pastoral Counseling under the School of Theology and Ministry. “I was really interested in the idea of psychological well-being and biblical meaning making.” She worked in therapy for four years. She found it natural to care about people while helping them live healthier and happier lives. Her experience as a mental health therapist shaped how the Hearth & Table program is operated. Hearth & Table is more than just a program to feed students. It contributes to building a loving and nurturing community for college students to feel like they belong.
Sister Clare acknowledges the stigma surrounding a program being hosted by a campus ministry, but the goal isn’t to convert students to faith. The purpose is to develop a sense of belonging to the University of Oregon and the City of Eugene through food, cooking skills, and relationships. For those of you reading this that want to love, serve, and show care in your everyday lives, Sister Clare wants you to remember not to overvalue productivity. She wants you to know how important it is to be a messy and imperfect human being.
If you’re interested in learning more about Hearth & Table email Sister Clare at firstname.lastname@example.org