About 30 years ago, a group of Tioga County churches decided they could better serve the community's poor by joining forces. The coalition formed back then is now known as Allied Christians of Tioga (ACT); its membership, consisting of mainline Protestant, Catholic and nondenominational Christian churches, as well as one nonprofit organization, are still united in service to God's people in need.
For I was hungry and you gave me food… (Mt 25:35a)
Every Thursday evening, anywhere from 60 to 100 people or more gather in Owego to share a meal. Most gatherings had been held in the Owego United Methodist Church fellowship hall until the church was devastated by the September 2011 flood. The First Presbyterian Union Church of Owego has taken over as the primary dinner site while the Methodist Church's hall undergoes extensive repairs.
On a typical Thursday afternoon guests begin arriving around 5 p.m. They are old and young, men and women, families and singles, able-bodied and disabled. When the weather permits, small groups assemble outside to swap stories and share a laugh. Inside there are games for the kids and free blood pressure screenings provided by the Lourdes Parish Nurse Ministry. No one is turned away. Guests who are able help with the setup. On occasion there are also educational programs provided by organizations such as Cornell Cooperative Extension or the American Red Cross.
Around 6 p.m. the assembled guests join in asking for God's blessing. Dinner is then served, with member churches/organizations taking turns doing the preparing, serving and cleaning up.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me… (Mt 25:35c)
No one is left out or ignored. No one remains a stranger. There is animated conversation as friends visit and children play. After serving many of the volunteers sit down with the guests to share a meal and renew old acquaintances or forge new ones.
After dinner guests police their own tables, deliver dishes to the kitchen, help with cleanup. By 7 p.m., the community has dispersed, some lingering for a few more minutes of visiting before going their separate ways until next week.
All who believed were together and had all things in common… (Acts 2:44)
Every Thursday evening, ACT members and guests recreate the early Christian community of the second chapter of the Book of Acts. The company of those who gather are of one heart and soul, and there is not a needy person among them (cf. Acts 4:32, 34). Joined as one in service, churches do together what no one church could do on its own.
Current ACT members include:
- Abide in the Vine Christian Fellowship, 1277 Taylor Road, Owego
- Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick Catholic Church, 300 Main Street, Owego
- FirstBaptist Churchof Owego, 228 Main Street
- First Presbyterian Union Church of Owego, North Avenue & Temple Street
- FranziskaRacker Centers, 1277 Taylor Road, Owego
- OwegoChurchof the Nazarene, 3732 Waverly Road
- Owego United Methodist Church, 261 Main Street
- Park Terrace Community United Methodist Church, 30 Glann Road, Apalachin
- St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 117 Main Street
For more information on how you or your church can help please contact ACT Board of Directors Chair Jeff Patricia at 607-972-3092.