If "casserole love" is ever included in the dictionary, it could be defined like this: a tradition within church communities where meals are prayerfully prepared and delivered as a symbol of fellowship to people beset by tough challenges.
Sandi Enns is one of many women whose church ministry includes her oven. She doesn’t seek recognition, much less publicity, but she agreed to let the Free Press into her East St. Paul kitchen to illustrate how people within church communities use food to carry compassion.
Bedecked in a colourful apron, she greets visitors with warm hospitality and a hot oven, which is being readied for two large lasagnas and a casserole. She mentions the recipients of the food will include a family that recently lost a son on a construction job site.
"The motivation is to show empathy, love and support for what the person or family is going through," said Enns, who is a deacon at Douglas Mennonite Church. "We want to share in their struggles so they don't feel alone."
"We want to share in their struggles so they don't feel alone.” –Sandi Enns
The process begins when she learns of families that are hurting, perhaps because of illness or grief. She contacts the family and asks if she can drop off a meal.
Typically, she makes a main course and includes side dishes and dessert.
Delivering the meal, she’s aware some families want privacy as they go through a tough time. She’s prepared to hand over the meal at the doorstep and leave after only a smile, and a hug and prayer if desired. But she also accepts invitations to come inside and visit.
She says the meals have sometimes led to long-lasting bonds of love, on both sides of the casserole dish.
For Enns, the meals are a way to live out her Christian faith.
"We are called to Christ to bear one-another's burden. Our faith is to show compassion and love to those who are suffering or hurting."
— Carl DeGurse
Photography by Ruth Bonneville