Magazine article The Christian Century

Food Truck Ministry Creates Sacred Space outside Church

Magazine article The Christian Century

Food Truck Ministry Creates Sacred Space outside Church

Article excerpt

St. Isidore Episcopal Church doesn't have walls, but it does have wheels.

The church brings food and faith to several small communities of worshipers north of Houston, Texas. Some meet at a Taco Bell or Panera Bread, others at a Laundromat. Central to the mission is the Abundant Harvest food truck.

"People need to be nourished body, mind, and soul," said Sean Steele, the priest who started St. Isidore in 2015 as a church plant through Trinity Episcopal Church in The Woodlands, Texas. It now supports eight faith communities totaling about 80 people, as well as its Abundant Harvest ministries. "There's something to do with how we eat and who we eat with that says something about how we relate to God."

St. Isidore's efforts have grown in recent months largely because of the congregation's relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Steele estimated his parishioners and volunteers served about 10,000 meals to people who lost their homes in the late August storm.

"It has shown us what we are capable of," Steele said. And although the need for hurricane relief has decreased, the feeding ministry has maintained its momentum. Donations have increased. Its volunteer list has more than tripled.

The idea behind St. Isidore is to go beyond giving food to the hungry.

"Our idea," said Molly Carr, the fulltime food truck missioner at St. Isidore, "is really about community, about building relationship around the table."

Carr collects groceries donated by stores in the suburban Houston area to repackage for distribution through the food truck. Volunteers gather twice a week to sort the food while enjoying fellowship, renewal, and the meals that they bring back to their families at home.

In this, as in each of St. Isidore's communities, Steele said the goal is to create a sacred space that maintains sacramental Christianity without depending on a church building.

"I love churches," Steele said. "I'm just not entirely sure we need to build many more of them."

Named for the patron saint of peasant laborers, St. Isidore started with one community of eight adults and five children, which met in a house.

Since then, it has grown to include groups that meet at restaurants, taverns, a boxing gym, and spoken-word poetry events. Its monthly "laundry love" events at a local Laundromat pay for hundreds of loads of laundry. …

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