Earlier this year, the Northern Province Provincial Elders’ Conference selected Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the location for a new emerging ministry under the leadership of The Rev. Christie-Melby Gibbons. After a thorough process of inquiry, research, on-the-ground exploration, prayer and conversation with area colleagues in Minneapolis/St. Paul and Milwaukee, both Christie and the PEC sensed God calling us to Milwaukee.
Since then, Christie has been working in Milwaukee to develop this emerging ministry. Here, she shares progress to date…
Our neighborhood is considered a food desert, with corner stores offering more cigars and pre-packaged “food” than nutritious sustenance. Many local buildings (businesses and homes) are boarded up. We’re only halfway through the year, and in our city homicides are already up 175 percent from last year, with 86 percent of perpetrators being African American, 82 percent of victims being African American, and 65 percent of victims being males aged 17–29.
At worst, mobilized improvement of our neighborhood seems impossible—at best, tricky. The trick’ll be making healthy, affordable food more accessible in our neighborhood. The trick’ll be revitalizing our boarded-up business districts. The trick’ll be dismantling systems of inherited privilege for those of European descent and reconciling systems of inherited oppression for those of African descent. The trick’ll be opening a cafe in our neighborhood centering on cheerful hearts, continual feasts and a cozy chapel. That’s what neighbors and I are aiming to do!
As an approved emerging ministry of the Moravian Church Northern Province, Tricklebee Cafe is being birthed in Milwaukee, Wis. Tricklebee Cafe is a member of One World Everybody Eats (OWEE), a nationwide network of cafe start-ups that adhere to a pay-what-you-will model. This model allows patrons to set their own price for their meal. (We’ll have suggested prices.) Or they could volunteer in the cafe in exchange for a meal. Apparently, cafe volunteers may work without a food handlers license, so long as they don’t work with knives or fire. So, we’ll have lots of volunteer opportunities for vegetable washers, smoothie makers, dish scrubbers and plate garnishers.
One of our aims will be to train and employ neighbors in our cafe who are difficult to employ due to criminal histories. With adequate training, cafe volunteers and staff* can achieve future employment in food service elsewhere. We’ll accept volunteers any time, even those who can afford to pay for a meal but who simply want to join our attempts to bring healthier food to our community. (*Our paid staff will earn a living wage!)
We also plan to have small, medium and large plates, so patrons can be more mindful of portion sizes, lessening food waste and curbing overeating. Our menu will include healthy, seasonal, vegetarian food grown and harvested as locally, organically and sustainably as possible. Our aim is to partner with neighbors who are urban gardeners and farmers, bee and chicken keepers and herbalists to purchase or barter for vegetables, fruit, dairy products, nuts, beans, grains, honey, eggs and herbs.
Feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger
God’s kin(g)dom is revealed when we give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty and welcome to the stranger (Matthew 25:35). At Tricklebee Cafe, we will strive to promote such kinship through continual feasts, frequent celebration and communion with God and neighbors. We’ll have larger tables available so that individuals and small groups can sit with others, forming a larger group that can cross social, ethnic and economic boundaries. Our prayer is that Tricklebee Cafe will be a delightful, safe, colorful place to gather in our neighborhood. We’ll feature dishes from around the Moravian world each month, as well as offer a chapel space for meditation and prayer. You’ll even be able to “order” a (free) spoken blessing off the menu.
A scripture text that guides us as we work toward making this endeavor a reality is: “God created food to be received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:3). It’s something we hope all will be reminded of in our cafe. In this era of post-church sentiments, Tricklebee Cafe will strive to bring church to the people through homegrown, home-cooked, healthful victuals and spirited, wholesome, encouraging conversations and encounters with the divine.
In the coming months, I will be finalizing a board of directors, filing articles of incorporation, getting an EIN, opening a Tricklebee Cafe bank account, etc. I will be working closely with the Emerging Ministries Task Force and PEC to scope out and decide on a space to rent. We’ll then begin renovations. We’ll need experts in electricity, plumbing, carpentry, painting and earthy decorating. Thank you in advance for forming work teams in your congregations to come help renovate the space. Our local full communion partners at Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church have an Urban Retreat Center just waiting to house you in its bunk beds. We are able to accommodate (feed/house) work teams from ANYWHERE! More details forthcoming.
For those who want to support this emerging ministry but cannot physically help, please pray for a solid, compassionate, wise board of directors, as well as smoothness in filing appropriate paperwork and obtaining necessary licenses. To contribute financially, you may send a check to The Moravian Church Northern Province, 1021 Center St. PO Box 1245, Bethlehem, PA 18016-1245, made out to “Moravian Church Northern Province” with the “Tricklebee Cafe” in the memo line. Or go to: http://www.gofundme.com/tricklebeecafe.
Rev. Christie Melby-Gibbons is the emerging ministry developer overseeing the formation and implementation of Tricklebee Cafe.