Church: Hamline UMC
District: Twin Cities
Submitted by: Beth Beaty
For 115 years, the Hamline Church Dining Hall has been serving food and hospitality at the Minnesota State Fair. Over the years, the dining hall has developed a loyal following. Some people come for the hash browns--which they claim are the best at the fair; some swear by the corn bread muffins; some come for the ham loaf or the baked chicken. Some stand in line, eagerly waiting for the doors to open for breakfast. Many have been coming for years.
But no matter what food people say they come for, they all mention one thing: the hospitality. "Nice." "Kind." "Pleasant." These words can seem weak and bland, but they are the heart of hospitality. A dining hall guest sees it in the patience of the cashier as a guest carefully counts out coins. They hear it in the laughter behind the serving window. They feel it when someone rushes up to help them balance a tray, a child, and a stroller. They sense it when they linger over a meal and realize no one is rushing them out the door to make room for someone else.
The members of Hamline Church talk of service, of giving water to the stranger, of feeding the masses. They see the dining hall not just as a way to raise money and awareness for Hamline Church’s ministry, but as a way to live the Gospel.
“It is a time to reaffirm our desire to take our presence and faith beyond the safe confines of the church building," said senior pastor Peter Boehlke. "It is Jesus on the midway. At Hamline Church we celebrate the late August through Labor Day liturgical season known as the dining hall at the Minnesota State Fair.”
The dining hall is staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, most of whom are members of Hamline Church. With nearly 2,000 shifts to fill during the ten days of the fair, church members end up spending a lot of time together. And that’s where the heart of Hamline Church shines. New members to the community work shoulder to shoulder with seasoned old pros. Teens learn to cook from professional chefs. Members of the clergy wash dishes. Children wipe tables. During slow times, workers catch up with each other and share their lives. Community is built.
Hamline Church is one of two churches still maintaining a dining hall at the state fair. Church dining halls, like churches themselves, used to be a given. Now they struggle to remain vital and relevant. This summer, the dining hall committee at Hamline Church took a risk: they decided to begin serving Izzy’s ice cream. Jeff Sommers, owner of Izzy’s, will be training members of the Hamline youth in his St. Paul shop. He has even created a flavor for the dining hall: Church Elderberry Swirl. A new walk up window will allow fairgoers to grab an ice cream cone and witness the hospitality going on inside.
There is always room for new guests. The Minnesota State Fair runs August 23 through Labor Day. The Hamline Church Dining Hall is located on the north side of Dan Patch between Underwood/Cooper, and will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The new ice cream window will be open until 10 p.m. Stop by and get some chicken and gravy with your hospitality.
Bring a church bulletin from the church of your choice for a discount!
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church