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30 Years of Welcoming Guests for a Meal and Company

Dignity/Boston and Arlington Street Church Celebrate Anniversary
Submitted by Peggy Hayes, Dignity/Boston Board member

The simple pleasure of a meal at the end of the day on Friday, usually coming at the end of a long week for most of us, was, for a long time, not something that the most vulnerable members of the Boston area community could count on.  But in 1984, members of two faith communities, Dignity/Boston and the Arlington Street Church, decided to change that by founding the Friday Night Supper Program, to fill a gap in the schedule of area meals for people in need. Here is how the program describes its mission: “The Friday Night Supper Program provides a warm, nutritious meal to anyone in need in a safe and dignified environment every Friday night.

Gritty determination, countless volunteer hours, and a loving spirit of giving have kept the Program alive for three decades, a bittersweet anniversary for staff, volunteers, and guests.  While all celebrate the staying power of the Friday Night Supper Program, the thousands of meals served, and respite from the busy city streets it has offered, over and over volunteers and staff voice the wish the Program would no longer be needed.

At the founding of Friday Night Supper, Dignity/Boston and Arlington Street Church worshipped at the Arlington Street Church, a community with a social justice mission reaching back to its efforts to abolish slavery.  When Dignity/Boston moved across Boston Common in 1988 to St. John the Evangelist Church, the chapter maintained its commitment to Friday Night Supper. 

A loyal corps of volunteers, many of them longtime Dignity members, work each Friday afternoon to prepare the meal, and each Friday evening to serve it and attend to other basic needs with a clothing closet and toiletries, or simply providing a friendly welcome and a place at the table out of the rain, wind, sun, or snow of New England weather.