During one of the first Friday afternoon spiritual formation sessions for Episcopal Service Corps Fellows I sat on a deep and cozy couch sharing pizza with my roommates. As we ate together, we discussed food justice, the ways in which working to combat food insecurity is sacred, and the sites of food justice work as sacred ground. Even in that early time in my year as a fellow I knew that to be true of the work of the Brown Bag Ministry program at Trinity and my experience there, but as the days have gotten shorter and the weather has gotten colder it’s taken on a new level of reality in my daily work at Trinity.
I must admit that the days where it’s particularly cold, raining, or snowing outside are my favorite days at Trinity. Instead of out on the front porch, we set up our two long folding tables directly in the front of the sanctuary in the historical space of St. Paul’s Chapel. Set in parallel to the altar, there is an immediate visual connection between the table where Christians gather to be fed in the Eucharist and the tables where members of our community gather to feed and be fed at Brown Bag. There is something particularly special, especially holy, on those days where outside the wind is whipping or the rain is falling and, for a few moments, the community I’ve been welcomed into gathers in respite from the elements. Some prepare the table, setting up large servers of coffee and hot water and bins of bagged lunches. Others simply rest, sitting in the rows of chairs in St. Paul’s historic space with tourists visiting the chapel and other worshippers taking a moment of prayer. Sometimes, someone will come to kneel at the altar rail, between it and the Brown Bag tables, and in those moments, as I stand in this beautiful swirl of stillness and busyness and chatting and quiet, I am overwhelmed to be part of something so full of the divine.
I've been reading a book called Take This Bread by writer Sara Miles who started a food pantry at her church in San Francisco. In it she writes “I see starting a food pantry at church not as an act of ‘outreach’ but one of gratitude. To feed others means acknowledging our own hunger and at the same time acknowledging the amazing abundance we’re fed by God.” Her work has been deeply important to me as she articulates so clearly what I have felt so deeply at Brown Bag. I feel incredibly grateful to be part of Brown Bag in this year of exploring my own spiritual hunger that brought me here. I came to the Episcopal Service Corps and my work at Trinity with a desire for spiritual clarity, discernment, and community. I wanted to pause and take time to recognize the presence of God at work in my life and the world around me and see where I might fit into it. I have begun to find all of this at Brown Bag, in the moments where I chat with a guest about their upcoming doctor’s appointment or the weather or our family holiday traditions. I am reminded that we all come to that space with needs and stories and I give thanks for the chance to connect over our shared humanity.
The writer, standing 4th from left.
In these moments I’m brought back to that formation conversation in my early weeks as an Episcopal Service Corps Fellow. “Can we really consider it to be breaking bread when we hand someone a meal or groceries and don’t necessarily share in the meal?” we were asked. These rainy days at Brown Bag have assured me that here in the sanctuary of St. Paul’s, sharing food to which we are all connected in its preparation, serving, eating, or some combination, we certainly are breaking bread, together.
SK Doyle is an Episcopal Service Corps Fellow working with Trinity’s Brown Bag ministry.