St. Barnabas of the Valley Episcopal Church, in Cortez, Colorado, feeds people. Spiritually, emotionally or physically, the church has found a calling in satiating people’s needs, and especially so in their feeding ministry, Grace’s Kitchen.
Started in 1998, Grace’s Kitchen provides one full meal, three days per week, to whoever asks. The Rev. Leigh Waggoner, rector of the parish, describes the clientele, saying, “Most people are just trying to make it through today.” Without that one good meal on a regular basis, guests may not be able to maintain their housing, their health or their employment; this is how close many are to losing all they have.
Of course, there is more to Grace’s Kitchen than the food—many guests come because they have found a trustworthy, caring community. The ministry has become, according to Rev. Waggoner, “their home.” Church members, after serving and before cleaning up, dine with guests regularly, and the rector is always open to lend an ear to concerns.
Grace’s Kitchen has been such an asset to the community and St. Barnabas’ that they were awarded a substantial grant for the renovation of their parish hall after a local citizen noted newspaper articles lauding the ministry. Before the renovations, the hall was industrial-looking, lending an inhospitable air to an otherwise very welcoming ministry. Several volunteers have noted the changed atmosphere of the room; the new surroundings have had a calming effect. In their newly beautiful space, Rev. Waggoner has started a rotating art gallery, even working with a local AmeriCorps volunteer to help guests create their own pieces for the room.
Since their inception, Grace’s Kitchen has served over 130,000 meals. St. Barnabas’, their rector notes, is truly “walking the walk” of ministry.