‘Soup-er Bowls’ brimming with fellowship warm Lowell Methodist Church

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Barbara Hodierne may not think her Manhattan clam chowder recipe is anything special, but I sure do.

This past weekend the Lowell United Methodist Church celebrated “Souper Bowl Sunday,” a few hours before the big game, with a fellowship gathering where parishioners enjoyed a variety of soups and crackers.

I ate a whole bowl of her chowder and I thought it was so great that I wanted to be sure to get the recipe for my readers. She’s very modest, but lucky for you I’m such an affably persistent journalist that I convinced her to “spill the beans,” and not “clam up.”

Here’s what I got out of Barbara;

Chop onions and green pepper and sauté them with butter and a little garlic, Cook those vegetables in three cups of water with peeled and chopped potatoes, and diced carrots, Let it simmer for 20 minutes, then add three cans of chopped baby clams (with the juice) and let all of it simmer for a couple of hours. Add some sage, thyme, a pinch of cayenne, and a little salt and pepper.

“We tried to think of something that would be fun to do but would also have a cause,” Anne-Louise Bailey, the pastor’s wife explained. “So, on the day that people get together with family for the Super Bowl, we thought that morning we would have our church family get together and have soup-er bowl. We collected soup for the food pantry, and we had our fellowship together.”

“Dear God, we thank you for the bread of life,” Pastor Fred Bailey opened the event with a prayer, “We know that Jesus is the bread of life who satisfies. We know that Jesus loved to catch fish, and eat fish, and he told us we’re supposed to be ‘fishers of men,’ so we thank you for this good food. Bless this time together for our fellowship.”

Before the meal it had been an emotional day. A parishioner thanked the congregation for praying for him as he went through serious health problems. Another member, not attending that day, is the mother of the young man who died from his injuries after being hit by a truck on Erie Boulevard in Rome.

“We thought ‘why are we here? What is our mission?’,” Anne-Louise said. “We are here to support each other. It is okay to come and cry. We are here for each other. We are becoming more and more a ‘hugging church’.”

One man who certainly deserves a hug, or a hearty pat on the back, is Kyle Eychner. I admire him tremendously for volunteering so much of his time to care for the church building. He shoveled the sidewalk that morning before anyone arrived, during the cold snap he drained all the pipes of water, and he has been doing amazing work, despite the church’s limited resources, to reinforce the fellowship hall where people gather for meals and events.

“I love things like this,” Eychner said. “It’s another opportunity for the public to come in and see what the church is all about and see how friendly we are. Everything we do is related to Jesus we want to strive to put Jesus in everything we do.”

“Absolutely,” Pastor Fred Bailey interjected with enthusiasm.

“You walk in and see we’re putting on a dinner and people and are talking,” Kyle said looking at the tables where people gathered to eat their soup together.

“People keep inviting others to come and I keep preaching the gospel,” Pastor Bailey said. “The gospel is good news, not bad news. I’m giving good news to people, and they want to hear it.”

The church is still raising money for those necessary repairs Eychner has been working so hard on. They have set up a fundraising page atwww.gofundme.com/church-new-roof-and-floor.

I sat across from Brice Hannan and his mother Sue. They joined after hearing about the church from a family friend, Diane Robinson. Sue was just baptized into the church in January and her is son is preparing to do the same in the next few weeks. He has previously been a Roman Catholic and a Mormon but left both churches.

“I saw my mom get baptized and it basically gave me my belief back,” Brice explained. “I came for the people and atmosphere. I feel like I belong here.”

Diane Robinson comes all the way from Canastota. She joined after talking to Lay Leader, Wendy Grosjean.

“God brought me here,” Diane Robinson said. God, and determined Lay Leader, Wendy Grosjean have played a large role in growing the size of the small congregation.

The Hannans ate Anne-Louise Bailey’s New England Chowder. She’s originally from Maine, so she made it according to an old family recipe.

Poach (cook without boiling) fish in hot water. Anne-Louise uses haddock, but if you have tilapia or something else, use that. After a while take the fish out of the water but save that water to cook chopped potatoes. If you like onions, chop them and cook in butter until they are translucent, or use onion flakes, or skip the onions entirely. It’s up to you. Once that’s done put the fish back in the water, with the potatoes, and add some milk, or light cream if you want. Make it the night before you are going to eat it and let it mellow for the best taste.

Before I left, I asked Pastor Bailey and Anne-Louise for their thoughts on the Super Bowl. Pastor Bailey wanted the Rams to win but thought the New England would prevail.

“My sister is a football fanatic,” New England native Anne-Louise said, “She keeps saying ‘they got an illegal move on Brady!’ We tell her, ‘Margaret they’re supposed to rush the quarterback.”

“They’re getting paid to do that!” Pastor Fred laughed.

He was right about the Super Bowl and the recipes were just right for the “Souper Bowl.” Your #BeMoreWestmo columnist isn’t a food writer, so the recipes might lack some of the specific details serious cooks demand. However, if you want more information, you’re welcome to come and talk Barbara and Anne-Louise yourself. Services are every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. You couldn’t find a nicer bunch of people to exchange recipes with, or talk about football, or if what you need is a warm bowl of soup and a hug, they’re good at that too.

Ron Klopfanstein welcomes your comments, questions,..and chowder recipes. Like him at Facebook.com/BeMoreWestmo and follow him at Twitter.com/BeMoreWestmo

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