St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church on Lower College Road held their second “Feed a Friend” event of the year Tuesday night, which invited students to enjoy a home-cooked meal with absolutely no-strings-attached.
Archdeacon Janice Grinnell, who joined St. Augustine’s in 2012, is always looking for ways to get involved with the student community and established the Church as a come-as-you-are community. St. Augustine’s is an LGBTQ Safe Zone on campus, and offers support and acceptance of all lifestyles.
Feed a Friend, which has been going on since 2013, is a monthly dinner cooked by the Church’s parishioners meant to provide a home-cooked meal for anyone who wants to show up. The Church hosts seven of these events throughout the year.
“When David Dobbins and I were assigned by the Bishop to come here in the fall of 2012, there weren’t any college kids involved in the church,” Grinnell said. “Maybe our third week here, a girl named Maddy came in with two of her friends. We held a pancake supper the night before Lent started, and I told those three to bring some of their friends to it. We were all sitting there and I asked if they were interested in a home-cooked meal. I’m always looking for stuff to do for students. I told the students that we would do it, but they had to bring a friend with them. That March, we had our first lasagna dinner for students.”
Grinnell urges that Feed a Friend is a no-strings-attached event, and is meant to be an opportunity to enjoy home-cooked dishes and a welcoming community. Upon arriving, people are asked to fill out name tags, and also asked to write the pronoun they prefer to be addressed as on the name tag.
“We do it for the purpose of letting people know they are loved and accepted just the way they are,” Grinnell explained. “Because if you believe that people can care about you that way, maybe you can believe that the One that created you does it too. It’s a come-as-you-are church.”
Grinnell said that another intention of these events is to further St. Augustine’s from the perception many people have of religion in the collegiate community. She made reference to the religious groups that frequently stand outside of the Memorial Union and hand out Bibles.
“There are the Evangelists who come onto campus, give Bibles to people and yell at them that they’re going to go to Hell if they don’t get saved,” Grinnell said. “What I discovered in the Episcopal Church is that this is a place where you have scripture that is authored by mankind and inspired by God, it’s not the literal Word of God. We have tradition, and we also honor the mind. They call it the ‘Three Legged Stool’: scripture, tradition and reason.”
St. Augustine’s, in addition to hosting these student focused events and regular Episcopal masses, also houses the campus food pantry, Rhody Outpost, which is a much overlooked resource on campus. It is now student run, and housed at the church. Twice a month, it is open for students who have food deficiencies and are in need. Students can also access Rhody Outpost at any time by contacting the Outpost. Grinnell expressed her admiration for University President David M. Dooley, and his deftness in addressing situations involving student need.
“I really love President Dooley, because when he finds out there is some kind of need or injustice on campus, he tries to figure it out,” Grinnell said. “The campus is very supportive.”
Grinnell hopes that awareness of Feed a Friend and the many other beneficial programs the church offers will grow, so more students can find the kind of acceptance that St. Augustine’s offers to everyone. She urged the importance to taking advantage of opportunities given to you, which might lead to self-betterment.
“I believe that God can write straight on crooked lines,” Grinnell explained. “Whatever I give Him, He will use for the good. But first I have to give it.”
The next Feed a Friend event will be held on Nov. 16 between 5:30 and 7 p.m., and will be a Thanksgiving dinner, free for students, with no-strings-attached.