Congregation Spotlight: Holy Comforter, Angleton
Over the past two years, Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Angleton has spent considerable time and effort developing a way to bring business, community connectivity, and wellness to Angleton. The Peach Street Farmers Market was created for exactly those reasons: to serve as a bridge to healthy community relations, an opportunity to revitalize the Angleton economy, and to improve the health of neighbors across the city.
The idea for the Peach Street Farmer’s Market emerged from informal discussions about ways to bring business into Angleton. As the idea developed, it was clear that Holy Comforter needed to partner with others in the community and reach out to institutions that could support the ministry in a variety of ways.
The main activity of the Peach Street Farmer’s Market is to provide fresh produce, meat, eggs, honey, and other food products through local farmers and vendors in a space that allows for people to connect with their “neighbors.”
The Rev. Travis Smith, Rector of Holy Comforter Angleton, and Ellen Eby, parishioner and manager of the Peach Street Farmer’s Market, set the idea into action. They met with the president of the Executive Farmer’s Market Board and presented the community farmer’s market idea to the Angleton City Council. As a result, the initiative was granted permits and street closures, which far exceeded the expectations of what they were requesting.
“As the Holy Spirit guided and the business plan came into being, it became apparent that this venture was a bridge to healthy relations in the community,” said Eby.
The development of the Peach Street Farmer’s Market has provided an opportunity for synergistic alignment between the City of Angleton and the Angleton Chamber of Commerce’s mission to bring the greater Angleton community together with local farmers and businesses in an environment that encourages community, entrepreneurship, economic development, and health and wellness. The farmer's market provided the opportunity for these two entities to partner with other community institutions.
The Chamber of Commerce became the first partner of the Peach Street Farmer's Market. The initiative has also received significant support from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, the Holy Comforter parish, the Holy Comforter Day School, others in the Angleton faith community, and the public. More recently, EHF has supported the farmer's market effort through training and participation in the Holy Currencies Incubation Program.
According to Eby, Holy Comforter’s greatest strengths lie within the people of the parish and the rector. The parish is made up of many people dedicated to outreach ministry through programs like the Lenten Fish Fry and their support of the day school. Holy Comforter’s Episcopal School is familiar to the community and has proven its importance of being a generational gathering place.
“Fr. Travis has created an instructive and loving environment in which people take risks," Eby said. "What happens when people take chances? They grow together, and they grow outward embracing.”
The desire to have a truly community-led initiative resulted in a Peach Street Farmer’s Market Board which includes representation from the Holy Comforter vestry, a well-respected local farmer, a local teacher and coach, an engineer, and an accountant. Together, the board represents different faiths and various community institutions.
Given the community and interfaith partnerships involved in the Peach Street Farmer's Market, the initiative has become a gathering place that transcends theological differences that brings the city together through a common bond.
Along with providing fresh food, the other component is edutainment -- education and entertainment. This unique component draws from community resources to offer music from local schools or bands, or education from local farmers and Ag Extension Agencies.
The Peach Street Farmer's Market has also partnered with a local high school's young entrepreneurship class to provide the opportunity for students to experiment, obtain real-life experience, and contribute to local entrepreneurship.
Overall, the market’s organizers hope the initiative will increase spending that flows back into the city of Angleton.
“The vision is that every Saturday morning, rain or shine, the community will gather and ‘grow’ healthy together,” said Eby. “That growth may come in the form of the social environment that surrounds the market, or the healthy food options available, or the edutainment provided, or any variety of anticipated yet unforeseen ways.”
The grand opening of the Peach Street Farmer’s Market was in August. Since it’s opening, the farmer’s market has seen an average of 350 people each Saturday morning, including neighbors from Lake Jackson, Wharton and other surrounding areas.
The current success of the market is greatly attributed to word of mouth and Facebook promotion, as well as the volunteers who give of their time to make the market work each Saturday.
The excitement for the market has more to do with the connections and relationships, than just the products being offered each week. In just the first few weeks of operation, visitors have already become regulars and relationships have formed between customer and vendors, and even between neighboring vendors.
Already the market has had education sessions led by the Texas A&M Agricultural Extension and the Farm Bureau with growing support and interest from other community institutions, such as the Red Cross and the City Fire Department.
Holy Comforter has recently joined six other congregation in the Fall 2017 Holy Currencies Sustainable Ministry Incubation Program to further develop their ministry plan and build on the strengths of their existing ministry to create a more transformative model. Through the program, Holy Comforter hopes to bring community partners to the table to understand what the needs are in the Angleton community and determine how the Peach Street Farmer’s Market can contribute to meeting those goals in a sustainable way.
“The hope for Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in this and coming years is to continue to live out in a visible and palpable way, our love of God and love for our neighbor,” said Eby. “In saying that, we hope to continue in outreach so that we can meet our neighbor. As we learn who our neighbors are, we hope to spread the gospel, grow the church, and strengthen the community.”