Written by Gayle Starling-Melvin
January - February 2001
On Sunday, Jan. 28, Super Bowl XXXV was slugged out in Tampa Bay, Fla., as frenetic fans bonded with their television sets as if joined at the hip.
But on a more unpretentious scale, another bowl game, the "Souper Bowl," was played on the same day, only this particular bowl, repeated annually, has generated millions of dollars as well as millions of fans.
Born in 1990 at the Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in South Carolina through the vision of intern Brad Smith, "The Souper Bowl of Caring," is a program by which church members from denominations across the United States, donate $1 on Super Bowl Sunday to feed the hungry.
Traditionally orchestrated by youth groups, the event features large soup caldrons that are placed at church exits. As people leave worship that day, they deposit their dollar bills in the cauldron.
The money collected is dispersed to soup kitchens or food banks of the congregation's choice.
St. Paul's UCC in Wausau, Wis., has participated in the "Souper Bowl" for the past four years.
"Last January we collected $1,323.22, and donated the money to the Salvation Army and a homeless shelter called Neighbor's Place," says the Rev. Christine Stack, associate pastor of St. Paul's.
"I'm strong about local church doing mission," she says. "The money from the Souper Bowl stays in the community and it's a good experience for our youth."
Since 1990, more than $10 million dollars has been raised for people who are impoverished and hungry.
In January 2000, 11,300 congregations raised more than $3.1 million.
This year's results will be reported in a future issue of United Church News.