LOUISVILLE - Souper Bowl of Caring officials say the annual anti-hunger campaign raised more than $3.4 million this year. Young people in more than 12,000 congregations, representing more than 50 denominations in all 50 states and Canada, Puerto Rico and Germany, took part.
The event is held every year on Super Bowl Sunday.
Officials said they expect the total for the Jan. 26 fund-raiser to top $3.5 million. Last year, about 10,000 churches collected $3.1 million. The record for the event is the $3.6 million raised in 2001.
"We believe the Souper Bowl concept is a gift from God," said the Rev. Brad Smith, the Presbyterian minister who launched the campaign from his own church in Columbia, SC.
Presbyterians from about 2,240 congregations in 48 states collected a record $719,452 for Souper Bowl 2003. About 2,100 Presbyterian churches generated $703,767 last year.
"It's exciting and gratifying to see Presbyterian churches and their youth ... leading the way," said Smith, who now serves full-time as the campaign's executive director.
The Souper Bowl program was inspired by a prayer Smith offered on Super Bowl Sunday in 1988 at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church, where he was an associate pastor.
Since then, a growing number of young people in churches across the country have invited each of their fellow parishioners to drop one dollar or a canned food item into a large soup cauldron as they leave worship on the morning of the National Football League's championship game. Each participating group phones in its total, then sends the money and food to the charity of its choice.
The first Souper Bowl drive, in 1990, involved 22 churches in the Columbia area. Since the event went national in 1993, participants have raised more than $20 million.
This year's top contributing PC(USA) congregations were Sardis Presbyterian Church of Charlotte, NC, $5,300; Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church of San Diego, CA, $2,634; Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago, $3,330; and Saxe Gotha Presbyterian Church of Lexington, SC, $2,926. The state with the most Presbyterian churches participating was Pennsylvania, with 248.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Hunger Program contributed $10,000 to help meet the administrative expenses of the 2003 campaign.
Souper Bowl officials announced that Presbyterians Bob McNair and his wife, Janice, will be the honorary chairpersons of next year's event. Bob McNair owns the NFL's Houston Texans.
For more information about the Souper Bowl of Caring visit, www.souperbowl.org.
By Albert H. Lee