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Home-cooking shows pastor’s gratitude

EIGHT MILE, Ala. (BP)–Over the past 15 years, hundreds of friends, neighbors, church members and even prisoners have shared Sunday lunch at pastor Alvin Sullivan’s home.

For most people, serving 30–50 people a home-cooked meal every week after preaching a sermon would be a huge undertaking. But for Sullivan, who will turn 80 this year, “it’s just a way to say thanks.”

Sullivan became pastor of Kushla-Bethany Baptist Church in Eight Mile, Ala., near Mobile four years ago; he had been Bethany Baptist’s pastor for 45 years before it merged with Kushla Baptist.

“When I counted my blessings” and realized how long he had led the same congregation, “I thought surely there is something I can do to give back,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan and his wife Dolores have given back almost every Sunday by opening their home.

Every week, Dolores calls to invite members of the congregation and friends, but “really anybody who wants to come is welcome,” Sullivan said. Even the neighbors drop by occasionally.

There is no shortage of variety from the Sullivans’ kitchen. He does most of the preparation for at least five meat dishes each week, from chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and smothered in cream of mushroom soup to meatloaf, the basic staple.

As for side dishes, Sullivan prepares at least 12, including squash, peas, lima beans, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, cabbage and macaroni and cheese. “Just good southern food,” he said.

Preparations begin on Thursday nights, and Sullivan puts everything in warmers and ovens Sunday morning so that it’s all ready to serve directly after the service. So far, the food has never run out, he said. Occasionally people drop by with covered dishes and casseroles to add to the selection.

Guests are seated throughout the Sullivans’ home and even on the front porch when weather permits.

Tommy Jernigan, a member of Sullivan’s church since 1964, has had Sunday lunch with the Sullivans at least 30 times over the years and said his personal favorite is Sullivan’s collard greens. “It’s always a loving Christian atmosphere and there’s more than enough to eat.”

And there’s always a variety of guests.

For six or seven years, those guests included inmates from the Mobile Work Release Center in Eight Mile. Until 2003, Sullivan and other church members transported inmates from the center to Sunday School, worship services and lunch at his home and then back to the center. He saw this as an opportunity for members to mingle with people in different circumstances than their own and to minister to the inmates.

Jernigan said some people worry that Sullivan is doing too much at his age, but instead of slowing down, “we always find him doing more.”
Laura K. Womble is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention, online at www.thealabamabaptist.org.

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