Twenty parishioners from Prince of Peace Anglican Church in Hopewell Township including pastors the Rev John Heidengren and the Rev Philip Bottomley joined Steeler QB Ben Roethlisberger and more than 4,000 other volunteers who spent the morning of Black Friday, (the day after Thanksgiving), packing meals in Downtown Pittsburgh instead of shopping among a crowd of strangers.
The group representing churches from across the region packed the main floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for Amen to Action. The event is a three-hour series of assembly lines packing an oatmeal meal and a soup meal.
They sang, laughed and prayed together as they packed more than 1 million meals of apple cinnamon oatmeal and chicken-rice soup during the third Amen to Action, a Pittsburgh-based outreach event started by Reid Carpenter, the former Director of the faith based Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation. The PLF was founded by Carpenter, the Rev John Guest former rector of St. Stephen’s Sewickley, and other Christian leaders with the goal of making Pittsburgh “as famous for God as it is for steel.” This was the clarion call first promulgated by the Rev. Sam Shoemaker, rector of Calvary Church in Shadyside in the 1950s.
Amen to Action was born out of that sentiment, it partners with Florida-based Meals of Hope to make Black Friday a day of giving back in Pittsburgh. More than six tractor-trailers full of food and supplies were used in the endeavor.
The workers were grouped into teams, given hairnets, trained and started to work with assembly-line precision and efficiency, filling bags every six seconds. Volunteers funneled the fixings that made up the oatmeal meal or the soup mix into bags, sealed and boxed them for counting. The meals left the convention center on pallets and will be distributed to food banks across western Pennsylvania over the next few months.
Fr. Heidengren concluded saying, "It was a great day. I hope next year to double the number of our parishioners who participate and to see at least twenty Anglican Churches involved as well. I don't know of a better way to counter the prevailing culture of self-indulgence manifested in Black Friday and also to fulfill Jesus' mandate found in the Great Commandment to 'love your neighbor as yourself' in such a tangible and effective manner".