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A community dialogue is what All Saints in Woodstock seeks, for its 'Woodstock Commons' idea

BECKY LUENING - In mid-March, after the State ordered food establishments to limit their service to takeout only, in order to limit social contact, Otto's Sausage Kitchen – a few steps from All Saints – began pre-packaging their meat products to minimize the human contact required for each transaction. As of March 20, the deli was still selling hot dogs and sausages on the corner of S.E. 42nd and Woodstock.The date was set; the folks at All Saints Episcopal Church in the Woodstock neighborhood were getting excited about introducing their Woodstock Commons project to the public at a community meeting scheduled for April 22. That conversation has now been put on hold as part of the effort to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus by canceling public meetings.

However, The Rev. Andria Skornik, minister at All Saints for a year and a half now, promises that, as things return to normal, that conversation will again be taken up.

As reported in the March issue of THE BEE, church leaders and parishioners have conceived of "Woodstock Commons" as creating a community space at the church that is "a force for social good within Woodstock and surrounding neighborhoods".

In their exploration of the idea, the Rev. Skornik said, church leaders consulted with the people at Tabor Space – a community gathering space at Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church, on S.E. Belmont Street. While not quite as big as the Mt. Tabor church, All Saints does have a sizeable campus and outdoor space. She explained that "Woodstock Commons won't be so much about renting space to the public, but utilizing it in ways that provide benefits to the community – such as offering yoga classes, for example."

She suggested that people might welcome having a place to come in out of the cold, visit over coffee while children play, or just engage with others in an informal atmosphere to fill social needs. She thinks they might collaborate with local coffee shops or delis to supply food and drink. (The church does have a commercial kitchen, which is maintained partly thanks to proceeds from the church's Mustard Seed thrift store, normally open Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.)

Another aspect suggested for "Woodstock Commons" is developing a regular slate of thought-provoking and uplifting cultural events for the neighborhood. In the 2019–2020 winter season, the church sanctuary saw two seatings of a one-woman show starring Shannon Milliman, entitled "Not So Supernova". The show enjoyed a nice turnout of 70 to 80 people. Also in the pipeline – but on hold, for now – are plans for outdoor folk and bluegrass concerts as well as kid-friendly entertainment in the fenced grassy area in front of the church.

The church was in process of developing an appearance by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, the Latinx author of a book titled "Activist Theology", which would bring together activists from around Portland for a conference. Whether focused on addressing climate change, alleviating homelessness and hunger, anti-oppression work, or something else, local activists would have a chance to meet and learn from each other, and build a network of mutual support and encouragement for a community that often suffers from burnout.

These are examples, she says, of how the "Woodstock Commons" concept could benefit the Woodstock community and neighbors in Inner Southeast Portland.

Rev. Skornik promises that, as things return to normal, the planned community conversations will take place. The question she would like people to ponder in the meantime, is: "What are some of the unmet needs in our neighborhood and how can All Saints Episcopal Church campus be used as a community space to respond to some of those needs?"


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