This would have been Jim Houston’s 20th Good Friday staying behind in a church kitchen while nearly four hundred people did the “Stations of the Cross”, walking for justice through Toronto’s downtown streets.
Jim took over doing “soup ’n bread” in the year 2000. For five years, when The Good Friday Walk started and ended at a different church each year, Jim would have to negotiate the use of a strange new kitchen with a women’s guild or a caretaker.
It was a great relief when fifteen years ago the planning committee decided to stage the final station at Holy Trinity in “a kitchen [Jim] had known and used for nearly thirty years at that point”. Leslie Norton, the manager of the Trinity Square Cafe, was happy to see her big, old industrial gas stove used for such a purpose and to supply a recipe that would feed 400.
“The first couple of years, Merylie was the sou chef. The next three years it was our daughter Sara who came to help, keeping four huge pots stirred.” Others volunteered other years.
Jim was feeling a little down as Holy Week approached this year: no call to St. John the Compassionate bakery to order fifty of their artisan loaves; no Wednesday trip to the wholesaler for 24 big cans of tomatoes, lima beans and chickpeas, frozen diced onions and carrots, and the secret ingredient, Jamaican chili; no hour spent opening all those cans, and getting the stove fired up.
There was also no need, with the help of caretaker Ryan Poole, to set up four feeding stations–each with a hot pad, ladle, basket of spoons, napkins, cutting board, bread knife and a pile of those wonderful loaves–along the north wall of the church, flanking the 12-foot wooden cross. No need to recruit volunteers to serve. No need to find buckets to take up the collection.
Jim even misses the aftermath, when he and Ryan cleaned up–getting all the paraphernalia back into the kitchen, washed and put away, especially scrubbing the big pots, always took ’til six o’clock.
This year Merylie decided to take a break from making sandwiches and baking muffins, and instead make soup for the team at the church to feed the long lineup in the Square.
There they were on Holy Thursday night, two of the huge Trinity Cafe pots on Merylie’s stove. Jim was happy to be her helper this time, knowing that a 20 year Good Friday soup tradition would be carried on in the face of a global pandemic.