Aurora Church Scores in Shifting ‘Souper Bowl’ Fundraiser to Covid-Safe Alternative

The once-ubiquitous church potluck — for many, yet another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the Aurora Presbyterian Church, its annual “Souper Bowl” fundraiser is more than just a potluck and a fun tie-in with the annual NFL championship game — it’s also a fundraiser for the Jubilee Food Pantry at Hubbard’s Zion Mennonite Church.

Before the pandemic, the event would include congregants bringing pots of soup to church on Super Bowl Sunday. The meals would be shared with all, and donations would be made based on people’s favorites.

“There was always good soup, good fellowship and maybe $100 for the Jubilee Food Pantry,” church member Gary Burgin tells The Canby Current.

Rather than canceling this year, another church member, Rachel Brooks, came up with a modified version that featured folks making their soup in advance and freezing quart-size portions of them.

The church then bid on the available soups and, the Friday before the Super Bowl, volunteers collected the more than 30 quarts of frozen soup, organized them for delivery and distributed them to families in time for “Souper Bowl Sunday.”

Think of it like GrubHub — except your food arrives cold and you’re not upset about it.

In addition to keeping a beloved church tradition alive, this version of the event raised significantly more money.

“When all was totaled, this year’s ‘Souper Bowl’ raised $1,000,” Burgin said. “This represents a 1,000% increase over our average donation to the Jubilee Food Pantry. We couldn’t be happier with the results!”

The Rev. Cynthia O’Brien, pastor of Aurora Presbyterian Church, was also thrilled with how things turned out.

“The members of the church are so generous and community-minded,” said O’Brien, who has served as pastor of the Aurora church since December 2019 and also leads the First Presbyterian Church of Woodburn. “They are big supporters of food programs like the food pantry and Backpack Buddies.”

O’Brien herself was one of the satisfied customers.

“I had Jim Crabtree’s legendary curried butternut squash soup,” she said. “It was exceptional. Another church member, Trudy Fowlks, had grown that squash in her garden and had given it to Jim.”

Like most churches, the pandemic has created some serious barriers to the normal ways Aurora Presbyterian are used to being a community, but “we have been teaching ourselves to use this constraint as a challenge to do ministry differently,” O’Brien said.

“The soup event turned out to be an outstanding example of the good that can happen when we are forced to think of new ways of serving,” she said. “Other efforts included porch visits, socially distanced community Christmas caroling and outdoor performances by the Aurora Presbyterian Band at retirement communities.”

The church has been broadcasting weekly services on YouTube and hosting other gatherings via Zoom. It plans to hold outdoor in-person services for Palm Sunday, March 28, and Easter Sunday, April 4 — weather permitting.

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