All Saints' Austin
“I just kept saying yes. The girls would bring an idea, and I’d say, ‘Ok, we can figure out how to make this work.’”
All Saints’ Austin has a long history of saying “yes.” 120 years ago, the second bishop of the Diocese of Texas, George Kinsolving, first said “yes” to the idea of a girls’ school on a plot land in the northwest corner of the University of Texas. The school didn’t last very long and instead became a dormitory to house female UT students. The school chapel became All Saints’ Episcopal Church.
More recently, All Saints’ said “yes” to Micah 6, an ecumenical consortium of university area churches that share ministry, particularly ministries serving homeless youth and the young adult street population of Austin.
Parishioner Kelly Barnhill said “yes” and began cooking at a Sunday shelter hosted by Micah 6. She’s a nutritionist and discovered that, after spending her days telling people what they shouldn’t eat, serving meals as a volunteer restored her own relationship with food. She was able to reclaim a sense community built around a shared table.
But the young women in the group Kelly served had an idea. They came to her and said, “We love the food you are bringing, but can you teach us to cook?” In talking to the women, Kelly and the other volunteers realized that many of the youth who were raised in foster care had only limited access to kitchens or opportunities to learn to cook for themselves. This posed a particular challenge over the weekends, Kelly learned, because there were very few safe places for people living on the streets to get a meal between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. And so, Home Cooked Fridays was born.
All Saints' Austin: Home Cooked Fridays
Father Mike Adams, the Rector of All Saints, says that Home Cooked Fridays, “…embodies the sacramental act of building community around a meal, regardless of whether it’s explicitly in a worship service. The diversity around the table is amazing, a diversity of people who would never walk in the church door on Sundays.”
The young women who first asked Kelly to help them learn to cook continue to be a part of Home Cooked Fridays, often standing at the door greeting guests, demonstrating a strong sense of ownership of the program. Some of the women participated in a program that Kelly initiated to enable them to get food handlers’ licenses, thinking that this certification might provide enhanced employment opportunities. But like the bishop’s girls’ school, the idea of working in the food industry never really took hold. The young women decided they’d rather cook and serve for their families and their street community.
But other ideas did spring up and take root as part of Home Cooked Fridays, and Kelly and the volunteer team remain open and wiling to say yes to “whatever works.” The food they serve comes primarily from recovery work with local restaurants, and grocery stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods, relationships that have evolved over time. As a nutritionist, Kelly is very intentional in providing high quality, healthy food. Food waste is composted, the result of a suggestion by an intern serving the program. She took on the challenge of implementing a composting process and within two weeks, Home Cooked Fridays was composting.
Crucial to the ongoing growth and sustainability of Home Cooked Fridays has been the growing relationship with the Johnson Center, Kelly’s employer. Their mission is children’s health and development, and they saw the work Kelly was doing with Home Cooked Fridays as a natural outgrowth of her professional responsibilities. The center said “yes” to a proposal that allows Kelly to dedicate eight working hours a week to Home Cooked Fridays; and the Johnson Center has also provided and managed interns who have been instrumental.
All Saints' Austin: More Home Cooked Fridays
For churches thinking about starting this kind of ministry, a willingness to be open to new possibilities and partnerships is crucial. Allowing a program to grow organically, based on the interests, abilities, and vocational gifts of participants is the best way to evolve. And of course, being willing to say “yes!”
Speaking of saying “yes,” All Saints’ Austin is a new member of EPN! Fr. Mike decided to join at the suggestion of a parishioner who is a fund development professional for the Seminary of the Southwest. He attended a few EPN conferences as a seminary representative but came back to All Saints’ with invaluable suggestions as how to utilize the church’s endowment, and ideas to improve overall stewardship. EPN is thrilled to welcome All Saints’!