Oak Lane Presbyterian Church, located in the East Oak Lane area of the city, offers many programs geared toward creating a tight-knit congregation.
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Judith Brackett, had this goal in mind when she created her Tuesdays in the Kitchen with the Pastor program, which allows members of the congregation to spend time with her, learn more about each other and cook some soup.
Many members come to swap stories and be around others who share in a spiritual journey. They also bring an ingredient to add to day’s work. Often it’s those ingredients that ultimately decide what type of soup will be made that day.
“When we come to church, usually there is a set group of people who are preparing the meals or we take turns preparing them,” member Joan Clerk said.
Clerk has been attending Oak Lane Presbyterian Church for 23 years and saw the Tuesdays in the Kitchen program as a unique incentive for membership. She has enjoyed tasting the different soups the group prepared and sharing moments in the kitchen with her church family.
“With this program, it’s whoever shows up bringing whatever they please. We don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I think putting our spirit into it is special,” Clerk said. “Everyone is communicating and learning a little more about each other.”
After two hours of cooking and chatting, the women usually pack the soup to take home and give to other church members. One member who had just lost his wife was on a recent list; the others were elders of the church.
“Since everyone brings the ingredients and the kitchen is here, it doesn’t cost anything and anyone can take some home,” Brackett said.
As the head of this event, Brackett believes that the kitchen is the perfect place to break down walls.
“I love the idea that the spirit blows where it pleases. There’s a serendipity of the spirit in this entire endeavor.”
The opportunity to gain a closer relationship with the pastor and fellow congregation members is not the only reason individuals attend the Tuesday gathering. Participants also walk away with a new recipe or even a new health tip.
“I love the sharing of information that happens over the table,”said H. Victoria Hargro-Atkinson, a member of the church for 25 years. “Someone might know something that you may not. For example, we were talking today about sage, and sage is a natural antibiotic. No one knew that.”
Hargro-Atkinson is proud of how close everyone in the church is and admires the pastor’s leadership and ideas that help keep the community bonded.
“This church is a place where you can actually have comfort that people actually care about you,” she said. “It’s not a large congregation, but it is so intimate.”
–Text, video and images by Talore McBride.