JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Plot thickens in this parish potboiler

WAS IT THE bishop who planted the seeds of the idea last fall?

Or the deacon who sowed them in the local parish during Lent?

The gardener who nurtured them this spring?

Or the cook?

The plot at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is starting to take shape, and the question is “Whodunit?”

And the public is invited to the parish hall at noon today to weigh the evidence.

Exhibit A: A pot of vegetable soup, made from scratch, which will be served to everyone who shows up.

The meal inaugurates a community outreach effort called Just Soup, and it’s just that. No donations, no questions, no spiels — although there may be bread and fruit on the side, according to the deacon, Karen Pierce.

Pierce, installed as deacon last fall, allegedly instigated the idea of starting a church garden to grow vegetables for the soup lunch.

The other suspects: Mahala Henry, an ardent gardener with an extensive knowledge of horticulture, and Linda McKenzie, a retired school principal from Houston who likes to cook.

Under questioning, Pierce admitted to being influenced by a speech that Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, gave on taking the church into the street.

Given St. Paul’s location, on the corner at the top of the Jefferson Street where it turns onto Tyler, the church didn’t have far to go.

“St. Paul’s is on the street coming up from downtown and going to Lawrence and uptown,” Pierce said. “We see a lot of people coming up and down.”

Exhibit B: The soup garden, two small plots bordering Jefferson Street in front of Fenn House, an annex to the parish hall.

Accessories before the fact: Doug Pierce, Roger Loney and Ronnie Hansen, who installed the raised beds after a crew from Gray Wolf Ranch broke up the sod.

Doug McMinds put in drip irrigation, and church member Peggy St. Claire volunteered for kitchen duty along with other members of St. Paul’s.

Grace Lutheran members have agreed to aid and abet, Pierce said.

“I’m also talking with members of Bet Shira, which meets at St. Paul’s,” Pierce said.

The soup will be served in real dishes on tables with tablecloths, Pierce said, along with napkins and flowers.

Wanted are people to come and enjoy it, as well as spread the word to others who might draw sustenance from having a sit-down, midday meal with others.

McKenzie plans a rotating six-week menu, with a vegetarian option each week — chicken and rice soup is up next week, she said.

Donations of garden produce or fruit are welcome, McKenzie said, and can be brought to the parish hall Mondays, washed and bagged.

“Anything, foodwise, we’ll work into what we’re cooking,” she said.

Wednesdays were chosen, according to Pierce, because that’s the day the Port Townsend Food Bank is open. People can stop by for lunch either before or afterward.

Reaching people throughout the community — seniors, parents with young children, teenagers — is the goal.

“We will serve anyone who comes through the door,” Pierce said.

As to who is responsible, Pierce points the finger at McKenzie and Henry.

Both have means and motive.

McKenzie is reputed to be a good cook, and she said she now has time to volunteer and give back — something she didn’t have time to do outside of her career in education.

Henry has an extensive garden at her home near Hood Canal, including 400 row feet of potatoes that will provide fodder for the soup as needed.

Hoping to have enough to can, she also planted a large crop of 50 tomatoes that she is growing on faith.

Starting a soup garden with two small plots is also an exercise in faith.

“It’s part of the church’s mission,” Henry said of the reason she volunteered.

“I have the skills and the knowledge and can contribute.”

So all eyes are on Henry, who sowed the initial crop, choosing potatoes to reduce attrition by four-legged foragers who regularly travel between uptown and downtown.

She also planted pumpkins and clumps of herbs — dill, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme — and in the fall, will put in onions and garlic.

Although space is tight, Pierce hopes the soup garden will grow with time, but its success is out of her hands.

“I’m a catalyst,” Pierce said. “My job is to lift up the people of the congregation and to find their gifts.”

Starting today, Just Soup will be served from noon to 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church parish hall, 1020 Jefferson St., Port Townsend.

No charge; open to all.

No religious component or proselytizing.

People seeking spiritual sustenance are welcome to attend St. Paul’s weekly healing service at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays in the chapel. A spiritual counselor is also available after the service.

For more information, phone 360-385-0770.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.

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