Trinity Episcopal Church is a lively, inter-generational, and joyful congregation in Charlottesville, Virginia. Its history is unique.
Now almost 100 years old, Trinity was established as an African-American mission church. It played a leading role in civil rights and social justice in a city scarred by the ‘massive resistance’ to school integration in the late 1950’s, and by the “urban renewal” that virtually destroyed the local middle-class African-American business and housing community (including the original site of Trinity) in the early 1960’s. In the 1960’s, Trinity membership intentionally determined to embrace reconciliation by reaching out to our White partners in civil rights work to create a multicultural church.
Our vision is our mission statement: Trinity Episcopal Church is an intentional, multicultural Christian community of reconciliation, transformation and love. We welcome visitors for our Sunday service and fellowship beginning at 10:30am. From September to May we also host a community breakfast beginning at 8:30am Sundays in our parish hall. If you would like more information about Trinity, please send us an email or call (434)293-3157.
Please read below to learn more about Trinity’s discernment process for establishing our Bread & Roses ministry:
The Seeds of Bread & Roses
by Helen Plaisance
Two years ago, several small groups of Trinity parishioners read Generous Justice, by Timothy Keller. It’s a small book with a huge question to its readers: ” What can you do to go beyond talking the talk, to actually walk the walk with your brothers and sisters?” Mr. Keller suggests that it’s not the annual event, or the one-time assistance that we need to embrace. Rather, it’s a culture of support and assistance that we need to adopt and employ to really effect change.
Trinity has many assets– a large physical plant in the heart of the city, a good-sized yard, committed parishoners. It’s small in numbers, however, so as the parish considered how they might respond to Generous Justice in ministry, the question morphed into “What needs exist in our community, and are there others with whom we can partner to really make a difference?”
Pastor Cass and the Vestry engaged in an active discernment process to identify key gaps in the community. Some startling numbers emerged: one in four public elementary school children depended on the school for breakfast and/or lunch. Many of these children lived within two miles of the church. A significant percentage of household incomes in the city hovered around poverty levels. The location of supermarkets required use of a car or the bus for many of these households. Several neighborhoods had easy access to convenience stores but access to raw foodstuffs, healthy foodstuffs was much more difficult. Applicants for the SNAP program that replaced food stamps for low-income residents were offered listings of soup kitchens and emergency food banks: it became obvious that the SNAP program was only ever intended to be a supplemental program, but what was it supplementing?
In December of 2012, Trinity sponsored a conference on Food Justice that brought attendees from as far as 120 miles away, people involved in urban agriculture, organic gardening, food ministries, non-governmental organizations concerned with how American food growers raised the food sold in our grocery stores and how those workers were treated. Several Trinity parishioners were already involved in organic gardening, both on their own and in local community gardens. An idea began to emerge: that if we could grow food, and teach local residents how to both preserve and prepare it, we might be able to get healthier food to those in our community with otherwise-limited access to that, and improve nutrition, health, education and more.
Late in the spring of 2013, Trinity children and adults took a field trip to Polyface Farm in southwestern Augusta county. We had a two-hour tour via hay-wagon, though the lush green fields that supported grass-fed beef and pork, and a good-sized poultry program. The owner, the charismatic and world-renown Joel Salatin is a third-generation farmer and self-proclaimed landsteward who recognized the depletion of the soil that had resulted from four centuries of disregard for the land. He employs simple strategies to rotate his animals through the land while rebuilding the soil. He speaks of the pigs needing to express their “piggishness” by being able to root through specific types of green growth, for example, and his animals live full, low-anxiety and undrugged lives. He described his style of farming as scalable up or down, from hundreds of acres to urban nooks and crannies.
During the summer of 2013, Trinity sponsored the showing of several documentaries speaking to food, food justice, and food insecurity. We looked at the strategies employed in agribusiness: we saw four-foot by four-foot “flats” of baby chicks crammed so close in the flats that when the flats were unceremoniously dropped, by the forklift, onto the concrete floor of an industrial poultry farm, not one had the space to move and feel the effect of the drop. We saw families that could have been any of us at Trinity struggling to find food for the next meal. And we talked about what we had read, what we had seen, and how it affected us.
And Bread and Roses was born: bread speaking to our need for sustenance, and roses speaking to the beauty of what we can grow. Despite the presence of food banks, and soup kitchens and free- and reduced price school meals, Charlottesville has a food security problem, as well as a food quality problem. By working together with other small churches and local initiatives, we can use our space to grow food in raised beds that are accessible to all. And we can renovate our kitchen to turn it into a full commercial kitchen, where the fruits of our garden harvests can be preserved, and where area residents can learn to prepare food for themselves, for their friends and families, or for a career.