St. Andrew's breakfast co-founder retiring Sunday after 30 years of volunteering
Gray says that there are age limits for clergy, and at age 76, she needs to step down.
It was in 1982 when Gray and her husband Whit Gray, now a retired law professor, got involved at the church.
"People started coming to St. Andrew's for all kinds of things," said Svea Gray. "There were bad economic times and the auto companies were laying off people. I joined St. Andrew's Church and Society Committee and we wanted to do something to help.
"We came up with the idea to serve a meal, and chose breakfast because it's a meal with a fairly traditional menu."
Gray and four additional volunteers from the church made and served breakfast at the church on North Division Street for about 35 guests when the breakfast program started 30 years ago.
Now the average number of breakfast guests is 150-175 people on any given day. Breakfast is served seven days a week from 7:30-8:30 a.m., and volunteers number more than 70, many from outside the church.
"We get to know people and their needs," said Gray, referring to the people the church serves breakfast to including many homeless people as well as civic groups, school groups and neighbors.
"When you get to know people on a first-name basis, you get to know we're all the same, and I've made many friends."
Courtesy of St. Andrew's
"Coming to breakfast is many people's way of going to church," said St. Andrew's senior pastor Alan Gibson. "They see their friends and community here every day and connect with something beyond themselves."
The church gets the breakfast food through distributors and organizations like Food Gatherers.
"It serves the purpose of physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment," said Gibson. "We have deep thanks and admiration for Svea for her dedication over these years and are thankful for the blessing that she's been to all of us."
On Sunday, breakfast at St. Andrew's will be extended an extra hour from 7:30-9:30 a.m., followed by the main Sunday service at 10 a.m.
Then at 11:15 a.m. there will be a special celebration in honor of Gray's retirement that will include cake, a magician, and a performance by the Community High School jazz band.
Gibson says breakfasts will continue at the same time and the same place.
As for Svea Gray, she and her husband will be doing some traveling. Her official capacity as minister of the St. Andrew's breakfast program may end Sunday, but Gray, who lives close to the church insists that she will stay involved.
"It has been a wonderful ministry," said Gray. "Deacons are helpers with one foot in the church and one foot outside the church to try to help people in the world."