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Food politics and dirty dishes in #Brooklyn church

St. Lydia’s #ParkSlope #Gowanus

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Clean up at St. Lydia's means replacing distrust with trust and loneliness with togetherness.

Clean up at St. Lydia's means replacing distrust with trust and loneliness with togetherness.


When a St. Lydia’s service is complete, the time of the congregants being together is not finished. All are encouraged to help the cleanup and put the dining room back into a spotless condition. The steady stream of water cleansing the dishes, the forceful thud of table legs jamming into place, and the continuous murmur of voices all tell the tale of a community working together. This week they were also busy packing up to move into their new space at 304 Bond Street.

But the work of the congregation is not only conducted during the Sunday and Monday evening services; the entire week before the worship services is a long process of community effort to make the meals on the table a reality.

Holy fruit! Photo from St. Lydia's tweet

Holy fruit! Photo from St. Lydia's tweet

Since the meals every Sunday and Monday night are ones of holy presentation, Lydians are set on finding a way to provide the best ingredients of food with the most accessible produce available. Serving a  weekly meal for anywhere up to 30 people at each of the two worship services is no easy task, and the community of St. Lydia’s is constantly searching out for the most cost-effective way to provide the food they consume each week.

In the start-up phase, the congregation got its produce through a local home delivery service called FreshDirect. Every week, Reverend Emily Scott and the church’s community coordinator Rachel Pollak made an ingredient list and put in an order so a delivery truck could provide the ingredients in mass quantities. The array of meals prepared in the past includes Red Kidney Bean Curry, Lentil Soup with Apricots, and Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Salad.

For the future, Scott and the congregation are working toward raising awareness and becoming activists for the food justice movement. They believe the process of where their food comes from is just as important as partaking in the meal itself. Last year, they attended a conference called “Just Food” in which they learned the fundamental aspects of food justice. The movement promotes growing, selling and eating healthy food from local farmers who care deeply about the well-being of the land, workers and animals.

Learning the practice of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), the group decided to join the program which allows the church to partner with a regional farmer and purchase a “share” of their vegetables. From June until harvest, the farmer directly brings the fresh produce to a local drop-off destination. This provides both healthy and quality ingredients to the church while also giving stability to the farmer, regardless of weather or unforeseen circumstances. By July 2012, the church started using the vegetables grown from their CSA for their Sunday evening meal.

Another concept of the food justice movement deals with the issue of over-abundance. At the conference, they were told that even though there was enough food grown and produced around the world, its unequal global distribution leaves millions hungry, impoverished and diseased.

“It comes back to being stewards of God’s creation and also being created in God’s image and being creators ourselves,” a congregational leader said, putting a theological spin to food distribution. “Having a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship with other creatures and other parts of God’s creation is what it’s about for me.”

Dinner Flowers Candels

Scott’s plans for the future continue to grow. She hopes to connect St. Lydia’s with the poor community. Scott talks exuberantly about ideas for the future—their own community garden, after-school tutoring program, art exhibits, music performances, and a Sunday brunch service. This week the congregation is moving into its own storefront space. The church is also offering its space as a co-working area for people who would prefer a communal, spiritual atmosphere to working in their own apartments or a coffee shop.

The congregants know that all who enter into their doors will find a warm welcome, no matter their appetite or spiritual state. “Everyone who comes to St. Lydia’s will be fed whether they haven’t eaten for a week or just ate at lunchtime,” Scott says. “There’s food, there’s candles, and simple pieces of music. It’s palpable. You really feel it.”


St. Lydia's now meets every Sunday and Monday at 304 Bond Street between Union and Sackett Streets in Brooklyn. Arrive between 6:30 and 7:00. An eight minute walk from Union Street stop on the R and a six minute walk from the Carroll Street stop on the F/G.

Click here for more information on St. Lydia's.

St. Lydia's is still collecting money to finish the build of their storefront space. You can help them at this link.

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