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Atheists find a place to volunteer — in church

Updated: 2013-11-15T14:49:50Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

A group of atheist volunteers, told their services were not needed by a Christian mission, will help serve a Thanksgiving week meal at a church.

Independence Boulevard Christian Church invited the Kansas City Atheist Coalition to assist with its Micah Ministry holiday meal, to be offered from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 25, the Monday before Thanksgiving.

The pastor of the church reached out to the atheists after the Kansas City Rescue Mission told them they would not be a good fit to deliver their Thanksgiving meals to the needy.

“I called them right away,” said Lee Chiaramonte, pastor of the historic church at Independence and Gladstone boulevards. “It makes no difference that they’re atheists. They have the right to their beliefs. We have never turned away volunteers.”

The atheist coalition has helped the rescue mission deliver holiday meals for the last two years. But this year the mission will include religious messages with its charity, and it told the atheists they would not be a good fit to assist with that. In addition, the rescue mission said it has a limited need for volunteers and wanted to allow other people the opportunity to serve.

Independence Boulevard Christian Church for 13 years has been host to a program called Micah Ministry, which serves as many as 1,500 free meals every Monday night to anyone who wants to come. Guests are served at tables instead of passing through a line.

The food, the preparation and the service are all provided by volunteers of various faiths and denominations.

“We don’t proselytize, and I don’t allow other groups to proselytize,” Chiaramonte said. “We do say a word of grace in our circle of volunteers, but we do not expect our guests to have to follow our beliefs.”

The atheist coalition’s website says it received “an overwhelming amount of requests from various organizations” for its volunteers after the rescue mission said the coalition was not needed there.

“We are quite excited to simply work together and sincerely help those who are less fortunate,” the coalition said.

To reach Matt Campbell call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com

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