WHITEHALL — Lebanon Lutheran Church pastor Doug Ogden said the most common feedback he’s gotten from this year’s Lenten Luncheons has been gratitude.

The luncheons were abruptly canceled midseason in 2020, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and did not return either of the last two years. The group of attendees, mostly area senior citizens, that frequent the luncheons missed that fellowship, and Ogden said they’re pleased to have it back.

“They’ve been going on at least 30 years,” Ogden said. “They were going on before I became the pastor at Lebanon.”

The third of five luncheons in the series took place Wednesday at White Lake Congregational United Church of Christ, and the warmth among those who attended was evident. White Lake UCC pastor Donna Morton happily pointed out that it was a group of volunteer men who manned the lunch counters and helped serve soup to the attendees at this latest luncheon.

Two more luncheons remain in this year’s series, set for March 22 and 29. Ogden will be the guest speaker at the March 22 luncheon at White Lake United Methodist Church, and Lebanon Lutheran will host the final luncheon March 29 with White Lake UMC pastor Tim Dibble set to speak.

“Most of the time it’s been area pastors that have spoken at them, but there have been other guests over the years,” Ogden said. “It’s been the pastors this year. For the newer pastors, it’s been a great introduction to who they are.”

The guest speakers talk for about 15 minutes. Ogden said the theme of the talks, given the holy season of Lent, is how human beings have a need to be part of something greater than themselves. He added that finding common ground between those of different faiths is also a common theme of the discussion.

St. Peters Episcopal Church and Ferry Memorial Reformed Church have also participated in this year’s series. Ogden said this year’s luncheons were put together somewhat hastily and he was unable to contact all the local churches that have generally been involved in the past; he hopes to “do better at that next year”.

All are welcome to the luncheons, which are free. Free-will donations are accepted, which benefit the Lebanon Lutheran food pantry. Ogden said the first few weeks’ meet-ups have yielded about $300 apiece for the pantry, which he describes as providing a month of milk to give to families in need.

“You’ll see a lot of people that have come just because they got invited,” Ogden said. “You’ll see guests and one-time visitors, which is great.”