When you walk into a typical Sunday morning service at Largs Church of the Nazarene in Largs, Scotland, you can expect a delicious brunch before your worship and good conversation around tables after. The church, led by Pastors Tasha Alison and Steve Fountain, has made eating together a cornerstone of their ministry and identity as a church as they think creatively about serving their community.

In 2019, LargsNaz rewrote its vision statement to be about hospitality, health, and holiness. When COVID-19 halted traditional ministries, the congregation decided to try something new, – partner with a food bank to send out 10,000 meals to people in need. As pandemic restrictions slowly eased in Scotland, pastors Tasha and Steve realised their church building, a certified hospitality venue, could operate under hospitality rules instead of religious gathering ones, which broadened their ability to host people.

“If the pubs can have people come in, sit at tables, and watch a football match, why can’t they come in and watch our online service?” Steve asked, and the idea for LargsNaz’ Sunday brunch was born. From June 2021 to June 2022, were offered a choice of three breakfast items to eat as a pre-recorded service played on the screen. “Congregants were able to attend church and worship together, while still safely adhering to local laws.

Steve and Tasha didn’t want to lose what was happening when they went back to a more traditional in-person experience—sitting at tables and incorporating hospitality into the core of  their church’s ministry. They started offering food at 10:15, moving into a more typical service around 11:00.

“Service ends at noon and people don’t move, Steve said. “They sit and talk for half an hour, an hour. People love it, and now we’re looking for a bigger building.”

Eating together on Sundays and partnering with a food bank isn’t the only way LargsNaz is reaching the community through food. The church offers a programme on Thursdays called Common Ground. In the afternoon, elderly people come for companionship, teas and coffees, and help with their technology, provided by a congregant. When school lets out, children come for tutoring, games, and a hearty evening meal prepared by the church.

They also offer cookery courses every Saturday, including occasional lessons designed for children. Twelve people can participate on the portable gas stoves set up in the sanctuary, but LargsNaz often has up to twenty people sitting as spectators.

“It is worth every bit of work that goes into it,” Tasha said. “It is worth every bit of it to see this happening—kids eating together, families eating together People who are coming on Thursday and Saturday are coming on Sunday. They get to know our church and our community, and they want to come.”

Wednesday night prayer meetings, a monthly lecture series, and a monthly Sunday evening service are also all well-attended and contributing to the exponential growth of the congregation. In November, the Thanksgiving meal was so popular that they had to add a second time to accommodate everyone, feeding approximately 200 people.

“We’re creating warm spaces,” Tasha said. “They feel loved here and that’s what we want, for people to feel loved and accepted where they are, and nothing does that like food.”

– article written by Lexi Sunberg, currently based in Poland

– photos shared by Tasha Alison, Steve Fountain, Lexi Sunberg