Nov. 20—On East Suburban Unitarian Universalist Church's annual "Stone Soup" Sunday, there normally is no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen, as parishioners provide the ingredients and kitchen volunteers whip up a big pot for the congregation to enjoy.

This year, however, the number of cooks in the Murrysville church's kitchen is dictated by health and safety guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic. And, while there's still plenty of soup to go around — and plenty of reason to donate to local food banks, another feature of the annual event — church members had to make a few changes.

"Normally, there would be a play in service of the story, everyone would bring an item for the soup, and we'd enjoy it after," said ESUUC President Jennifer Halperin. This year, parishioners were asked to leave ingredients in a cooler to be picked up, contact-free.

"Participation has been great, we're making 25 quarts of soup to be distributed on Saturday and we're going to keep a few extra quarts in the church freezer for our soup ministry, in case someone needs a little happiness later," said Marybeth Renze, who organized this year's soupmaking.

Some of the quarts have gone out already, including Halperin's, and she said organizers have turned it into a "pay-it-forward"-style ministry.

"There was a little card on it that said 'Cup'o'Love,'" Halperin said. "They're encouraging the recipients to freeze a jar the next time they make soup, and share it with a friend, a neighbor, or someone who could use a little TLC."

The traditional "Stone Soup" play is about a soldier who comes to a village asking for food. The town residents say they have none and shut their doors, but they're lured out when the man begins making "soup" with only a stone and water. The villagers begin donating vegetables to make it better and, soon enough, everyone discovers a lesson about sharing.

This year, it's been rewritten by church member Mary Warwick to address covid-19 restrictions, Unitarian principles, sinkholes, stimulus checks and even "Star Trek."

"I don't want to give anything away, but our annoying Murrysville deer are a major plot point," Warwick said.

It was recorded via Zoom by church member Marianne Jew, and will be livestreamed along with the church's 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday. It's viewable at or click here (Zoom pass code: 843453).

"It was technically challenging, but it came together and it's really cute," Jew said.

In the larger sense, "Stone Soup" Sunday is about coming together as a church community, and Halperin said she's glad they were able to find a way to make it happen.

"It's just a lovely way of showing people that care is there, even though we can't be together," she said.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, or via Twitter .

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