St. Brigid Fellowship
(The late Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, one of our founders/visionaries and advocate for the less fortunate,
pictured with several of our regular guests.)
St. Brigid of Ireland
Commemorated on February 1
It is unknown whether St. Brigid of Ireland was raised as a Christian, or converted to Christianity as a teen, but either way she was inspired by St. Patrick and developed a deep love for God. Despite her father's opposition, St. Brigid was determined to lead a religious life. She had a generous heart and could not bear to turn the poor away from her father's door. Her giving often angered her father, until he finally relented to allow her to enter a monastery.
St. Brigid dedicated her life to Christ, and founded many monasteries. In Kildare in Ireland St. Brigid founded a monastery for nuns, which was the beginning of cenobitic, or community, monasticism for women in Ireland. She was the abbess of this monastery, and proved to be a wise and prudent leader. She reposed peacefully and took her place in the Kingdom of God, and is remembered for her common sense, generosity, and great love for God.
ST. BRIGID FELLOWSHIP
St. Brigid Fellowship is a ministry started by St. Athanasius Orthodox Church as an outreach ministry to unsheltered men, women and children of Isla Vista and surrounding areas. Approximately 80-100 individuals at any one time are homeless in Goleta and Isla Vista. Some sleep on the streets while others live in cars, vans, garages or other sub-standard housing situations.
We are a group of people working together to solve homelessness one person at a time. To be without shelter is to be nameless, avoided, shunned, blamed, hungry and exposed to the elements. Each visitor to St. Brigid's is known by name, has a place to belong, has friends, acceptance, and fellowship. We use an incarnational model, meeting people on the streets as Jesus did, addressing immediate needs and starting relationships that can lead out of homelessness. This is not a one-way ministry, us to them. All of us – housed and unhoused - work together to solve our own problems and the problems of others and the community.
St. Brigid Fellowship has an over 20-year history of outreach which began as a simple weekly meal offered in Isla Vista, when our church was located on the Embarcadero circle, and for several years expanded to include breakfast and a number of other daily services. In its first decade, the ministry was led by Fr. Richard Ballew, Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, Fr. Nicholas Speier, Jill Wallerstedt, Jennifer Ferraez, and Duane Franzen.
In 2012, the Parish Council of St. Athanasius Church made the decision to simplify the ministry of St. Brigid Fellowship, after we moved to Goleta from our Isla Vista property, St.Michael's Episcopal (University) Church graciously opened its doors to us and provided a beautiful and peaceful setting for the weekly outreach meal until March of 2020. The food was provided each week in collaboration with cooking teams from a number of churches and organizations, including our own parish, St. Michael's University Church, St. Raphael Catholic Church, St. Mark's Methodist Church, All Saints Episcopal Church, and the Community Affairs Board of UCSB. The Monday night dinner was led for over seven years by Richard and Susan Barre, and a devoted team of volunteers.
The weekly meal in Isla Vista came to an abrupt halt during the COVID-19 lockdown in March of 2020. It is unclear as of June 2021 if this meal will be resumed by our St. Brigid Fellowship, or perhaps by some other church or churches.
Currently, St. Brigid Fellowship's main focus is hosting the Showers of Blessing non-profit organization on the church's property every Thursday morning. A team of volunteers from our parish, coordinated by Howard Lange, offers coffee and sometimes other refreshments. More importantly, we offer conversation, kindness, and community. Other agencies are often present during the weekly showers, offering assistance to guests in securing benefits and government I.D.s, providing clothing, assistance with transportation, etc...
For more information about the work of THE SHOWERS OF BLESSING, go here: https://showersofblessingiv.org/locations/