Weekly News

The Regional Synod of New York

Taste of Heaven worshipping community embraces all

The Taste of Heaven ministry of Manhattan’s West End Collegiate Church is the subject of the current cover story for Faith & Leadership, an online magazine published by Duke Divinity School. Under the watch of associate minister the Rev. Jes Kast, what was once a standard-issue, once-a-week soup kitchen at West End has blossomed into a thriving worshipping community that embraces people who are often overlooked and marginalized.

Faith & Leadership typically highlights models of innovation for the church. This story — written by current RSNY seminarian and longtime journalist Jeff Chu — details how Kast has developed a custom liturgy for Tuesday worship. “And the dinner became more like a celebratory banquet than a typical soup kitchen meal, with entertainment provided by some of New York’s finest musicians,” it reports. “A new spirit of belonging grew. What had been a weekly meal and Bible study became its own congregation.”

Part of that congregational spirit has been driven by Kast’s elevation of the voices of worshippers. Many of them live on the streets. Some struggle with substance abuse or mental illness. “How often are their voices heard?” she asks. Listening means being open to their needs as well as their ideas. She has invited them to innovate programming, such as a monthly writing workshop suggested and now led by a woman in the Tuesday congregation.

The underlying principle: ministry “with,” rather than “to,” a population. “Often, we view ministries like these as a service to people,” West End senior minister Michael Bos tells Faith & Leadership. “We overlook the opportunities for ministry with people — and the opportunity has been huge.”

Read the full Faith & Leadership story here: https://www.faithandleadership.com/soup-kitchen-turned-worship-service-taste-heaven-model-ministry-rather