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It wasn’t on the Biblical level of feeding 5,000, but an Emporia church followed the example Thursday and drew a large crowd.

“We don’t have an exact count,” said Neil Taylor, minister of Emporia Church of Christ. “Based upon how much food went out the door, based upon how little pie we have left, ... we had about 500 people.”

The church staged its 30th annual Community Thanksgiving Meal, offering a free dinner for anyone desiring one. Things were different from last year’s 425 carryout boxes, when the church had to adjust to the coronavirus pandemic.

Not everyone who picked up a free meal Thursday was necessarily down and out.

“Within our community, we have great needs,” Taylor said after the two-hour meal ended. “We’ve had people come to our meals in years past who have just lost loved ones. ... People might have the ability to have a nice big Thanksgiving meal. They just don’t have anyone to have it with.”

It took a team of about 50 people several days to prepare Thursday’s feast. On Wednesday night, some of them sliced 48 pies after an evening worship service. Then on Thursday, volunteers began arriving two hours before the doors officially opened.

“There’s a big reason we’ve been here for 10 years,” the minister from the Chicago area said. “This is a good group of people that love doing things like this – love helping, love serving.”

Taylor subtly drove home the point of the meal over the last five Sundays, with teachings on 1 Corinthians 13. Many believers call that the “love chapter” of the Bible.

“Throughout the meal, we’re having conversations,” Taylor said. “There’s more than one way to show the gospel than just preaching a message, through the love we show each other.”

Emporia Church of Christ has a regular habit of putting on dinners. “Spaghetti Fridays” for Emporia State University students have been a Friday midday custom for about 17 years. However the food is served, Taylor says it’s all because of God’s blessing.

“I love Emporia,” Taylor added. “We have found a place here that we are absolutely thankful for, and love.”

This article originally ran on

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