Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Faith Works 1-12-08
Jeff Gill

Yeah, More Football

If you’re weary of football and don’t want to hear anything more about a sport whose ball doesn’t even bounce properly, I understand.

Please summon up your last resources of pre-Lenten forebearance, and consider the “Souper Bowl.” Technically, the Souper Bowl of Caring.

Held on the same weekend as the Roman numeraled Super Bowl (XXL this year, or something like that), this is a now seventeen year old (XVII) event, started in 1990 by Brad Smith, a youth pastor at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina.

All it was can be summed up in the prayer we still use: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl game, let us be mindful of those who don’t even have a bowl of soup to eat.” The youth at Spring Valley challenged the congregation to buy canned goods for the food pantry when they bought their munchies for the game, and also took donations of cash for the food pantry on the collection Sunday.

The next year they invited other Presbyterian churches to join them, and got a few dozen. Some churches had team-based challenges and piles in the narthex, and others just stood at the church door with pots in their hands to collect.

A couple years later, they went multi-state, and then Brad became Rev. Dr. Smith, and now . . . well, now the Souper Bowl of Caring is 14,000 youth organizations, generating over $8 million last year for food pantries, at a time which just happens to be a real challenge for them, after the rush of Christmas and before the advent of warmer weather.

Personally, I suspect the actual total, with in-kind amounts gathered can by can by youth groups in this innovative and very productive fashion, is waaaay more than the $41 million of documented cash contributions. And it really doesn’t matter.

The point is to make some of our purchasing decisions accompanied with a conscious choice to help the hungry while stuffing our overloaded gullets on Super Bowl Sunday, baptizing the pagan rites of championship football into the waters of compassion and caritas.

To read more about Souper Bowl of Caring, go to: Their story is a marvelous one, including Rev. Dr. Smith going from another youth pastor with a crazy idea to executive director of a national foundation to help manage the wild beast he’s helped create.

Many Licking County congregations already have youth doing some kind of special food pantry promotion on Souper Bowl, I mean, Super Bowl Sunday, and whether there’s a formal relationship with the wider organization or not, what a great day to make a little extra effort to feed those in need?

The Licking County Food Pantry Network does great work, and any canned goods or cash contribution we add to the effort will be well used; your local food pantry probably has a productive relationship with them already. Pick up a can or two of soup, some beans and veggies, and some canned meat or peanut butter, and take it to church on Feb. 3.

Even if you don’t have a “Souper Bowl” program going on, it’s a forward pass for a first down to defeat hunger. And we all win in that game.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; yes, he stayed up last Monday night and isn’t sure why he did. Share your puzzles of life an faith with him at

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