FRONTENAC — You don't have to be familiar with the Frontenac Methodist Church to know where to go on Noodle Making Morning. A sign taped to one of the doors proclaims which is "Open". You have to try to miss it, and it's a clear message of welcome.
It's typical of the church that rarely sees itself as a church. A giant kitchen, a meeting place, extra parking for the parents, a safe place for the kids for the elementary kids across the street in an emergency, a daycare for the community all week long, it has many roles in Frontenac.
Often it seems the Methodist Church is only a full blown church on Sunday. It's not a stuffy place or one given to a lot of rules. People are welcome to come be involved in whatever they are doing. Whether they themselves are religious or not. In the face of giant mega churches with thousands of people demanding donations for the pastors new jet, this church goes back to what a church was at first in this country. A gathering place of support and love for the community. Instead of promising free tickets to heaven for donations you'll find a group of people mixing, rolling, and cutting, homemade noodles. It's the kind of place that you feel good going into.
The door with the open sign is easy to enter, and inside in the spotless kitchen, it looks like a bunch of friends are having a low key cooking party. Food processors are running, people chatting, donuts are being eaten, and the newest photos of friends and family being shared.
The new pastor, a bright happy Asian American woman, makes sure she welcomes all the volunteers. She doesn't mention services. Just how happy she is you stopped by to help. Her mother, still learning English, pops around like a happy hummingbird helping everyone. She's the kind of person that just makes you smile. I had never met her before, but decided right away I liked her. The goodness of some people's hearts are so kind that it just shines out of them. A shared language is not necessary.
Other faces are more familiar. Women I've known for decades pat me on the cheek as I wander through with my camera. Vicki Ulepich, who I've known most of my life, kisses me, and reminds me to not curse. My pirates mouth proceeds me, earning me the loving warning, and part of me is grateful for it. After all, it shows she hasn't given up on me yet.
No one notices much when I start taking photos. Me with a camera is hardly unique in Frontenac. It is a blessed honor for a photographer, for their community to feel so comfortable with them that they acknowledge them only briefly, then with love, and a quick acceptance of presence. I absolutely treasure it, and never take the gift of it for granted.
It's a multistep, multi-day process to make chicken and noodles like the church specializes in. Today is making the dough and cutting it for drying. This crew makes it look like a quilting bee. Each group happily chatting their way through a part of the process before handing it off to the next set of waiting hands.
Older kids from the middle school come in and help after a while, bringing up the laughter in the room more. It feels more and more like a family preparing for Thanksgiving. The kids are happy to help, and you can tell this is hardly the first time they've helped their grandmas and grandpa's, uncles, and neighbors, cut and dry noodles.
The money raised from making and selling the noodles funds community projects the church is involved in, and it makes the atmosphere that much more friendly.
After spending an hour watching and laughing with them, I left feeling like if anyone really wanted to know what Frontenac was about; they need only stop by that kitchen.
They would find without doubt that at its core Frontenac is about love, and it always has been.
Writers note: Want some of these yummy chicken and noodles? The church is dishing them up at 4 p.m. Wednesday. More details can be found on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/frontenacumc.org