Rooster Soup, Gospel Values, and Creative Fundraising

By Andy Greenhow and Casey Thompson

We’re always surprised by who God calls to the table.

Maybe we shouldn’t be. We’re both pastors, after all. Andy, especially. He is one of the pastors at Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a ministry founded in Philadelphia in 2005 based on the gospel value the church could be a place where everyone belongs. Emphasis on everyone. So the BSM founding mothers and fathers like Rev. Bill Golderer, BSM’s Convening Minister, stood on street corners and handed out printed invitations to worship and to the weekly No Barriers Dinner, Philadelphia’s Most Dangerous Dinner Party.

And wouldn’t you know it? People showed up. But in addition to young, artsy, and employed pledging units, outwardly suffering people came in droves—people experiencing hunger, homelessness, poverty, addiction, and mental illness. They came to the table—the liturgical one at the center of our worship and the round ones in the cathedral dining room, a scene straight out of Luke 14. They came to eat at our community meals, but they also needed a change of clothes, they were looking for some deodorant or a change of underwear, and they needed a mailing address.

The question shifted from, “How do you get people to come?” to “How do you care for our city’s most vulnerable?” BSM had a strong staff and a relatively coherent theology rooted in the table, but in order for us to accommodate all the people who had accepted the invitation, we needed help from the pros. So we invited a few more to the table: a diverse group of hoteliers and restaurateurs to come together and advise us on how we could be the newest members of Philadelphia’s robust hospitality industry.

Fast forward a few years and some of those restaurateurs came to BSM with an idea. CookNSolo (that’s Steven Cook and Mike Solomonov) is a family of restaurants, among them a local favorite, Federal Donuts, specializing in fried chicken and donuts. (Fried Chicken and Donuts, y’all!) Federal Donuts was discarding about 1,000 pounds of perfectly good chicken backs and bones a week and wanted to make it into soup. God had invited them to the table and they had something to bring. Of course, the soup would taste good. But could it do good, too?

Rooster Soup-main After some fried-chicken-fueled brainstorming between Mike, Steven, and Bill, Broad Street Ministry and Federal Donuts decided to invite even more people to the table and open the Rooster Soup Company, a restaurant that uses discarded chicken from FedNuts to make delicious soup to be sold at a profit to support Broad Street Ministry’s hospitality work. A restaurant that donates all its profits can’t exactly get traditional investors or a bank loan, so we widened the invitation to the table a little more and took to Kickstarter to crowdfund the idea. (It’s going really well, thanks for asking! There’s about a week left and you can watch the video if you think you’re interested in joining us at the table.)

Rooster Soup

What Casey thinks is brilliant about this idea (which he’s comfortable saying since he had nothing to do with it) is that it’s harnessing a gospel value — hospitality — that people who never walk in a church value as well. Like Steven and Mike. You won’t find them at church but you could probably catch them at the synagogue for the high holidays. And if you look at the backers on Kickstarter, you’ll find Buddhists and Muslims, atheists and agnostics, a little bit of everyone around the table. As we said earlier, we’re always surprised by who God calls to the table.

We also think there’s some deep thinking the church needs to do about how the church develops social businesses—because tithing is dying and we need to start these conversations now. If it emerges from our defining values, like the value of hospitality, then it has a chance of being an authentic invitation to the gospel as well as a revenue stream.

But that’s a blog post for another day.

The big idea here is this: Some people who had nothing to do with the Presbyterian church or even the broader Christian church came to us with a concept that they wanted to try, oriented around shared gospel values that they believed we would want to get on board with, that would enliven a whole city around new possibilities, and that would provide sustainable funding to an important ministry.

The next church doesn’t only try established possibilities and it doesn’t shout into the echo chamber to find solutions. It reaches out, finds best practices, asks for help, and finds a diverse body of shared-value stakeholders. Something like this could happen anywhere. So let’s get Rooster Soup off the ground and then we’ll gather at the table again and do something like it somewhere else.


Andy is Minister of Stewardship, Congregational Partnership & Belonging at BSM and is coordinating the Rooster Soup Co. effort for Broad Street.

Casey’s not on staff at BSM but he likes to pretend he is and might as well be. He is the Pastor of the Wayne Presbyterian Church, one of the five founding churches of BSM.

5 Questions with Bill Golderer

This series highlights participants at the national gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 4 – 5th, 2013. Presenters, preachers, teachers, and leaders were asked the same five questions and their thoughtful responses may be found here every week. The goal is to introduce you to people you’ll hear from in Charlotte and prime the pump for our time together. Hopefully, something here will spark an idea, thought, or question for you. We encourage you to reach out and initiate conversations that you can later continue in person. 

Bill Golderer and his partner in crime, Julie.

1. Tell us about your ministry context. 

In 2005, I responded to a call from a group of (mostly) suburban mainline protestant clergy from the Philadelphia region to breathe new life into a dormant landmark church in Center City that in the last century was an important part of a vibrant urban landscape. That response led to my founding of the Broad Street Ministry (BSM) in Philadelphia in what was once the historic Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church along Center City’s Avenue of the Arts. BSM is an innovative Christian faith community that emphasizes the Gospel imperatives of extending generous hospitality, demonstrating justice and compassion, and providing a ground for artistic expression. Beginning with less than $8,000 in seed capital and no existing congregation, BSM has grown into one of Center City Philadelphia’s most dynamic and largest worshipping congregations. It is diverse in every way, and has worked aggressively in its common life to be hands-on in addressing issues that detract from people’s ability to experience the abundant life that God intends.

In 2008, I extended my pastoral ministry in Philadelphia when he became the Pastor of Arch Street Presbyterian Church (ASPC).  Since 1851, Arch Street Presbyterian has been a worshipping congregation in the heart of Center City Philadelphia. When I arrived, this congregation was on life-support.  But after assembling a dynamic team of lay and professional leadership, ASPC has undergone a rapid and dramatic revitalization. Collectively, this community has taken up its mat and is walking boldly into the future that God has prepared for it.  The congregation is now a dynamic Sunday morning worshipping community, a church that welcomes children and families of every configuration, and a church that struggles alongside the people who work in the skyscrapers around it (and those who wish they were employed there) who aim to integrate their faith and work.

2. Where have you seen glimpses of “the church that is becoming”?

It is a core conviction of mine that God is already dynamically at work in the world and the priorities of the Kingdom are on view everywhere.  I like to think that when we are at our best, Presbyterian leaders are like archeologists who are uncovering in the most unlikely places where God is up to something exciting and challenging.  Specifically I have seen this wherever the church is taking risks that are real and scary.  When we are not at our best, we tend to be the kind of people who want to know our ministry experiments will work without the risk of failure.  Two women who are forging ahead with an attempt to be the church in a new way–who are sort of “alumnae” of BSM’s pastoral leadership program–are doing something that is really exciting (and fraught with risks).  Rev. Karen Rohrer and Becca Blake are a couple of committed and talented seminary grads who have tried to be the church in a neighborhood that is rife with tension between those who have lived in the neighborhood for decades and a recent influx of hipsters and other young people whose presence is gentrifying the neighborhood.  Through creative worship and a commitment to be the church that brings these divergent populations together, they are up to something really powerful but also very fragile.  God is unmistakably present when those two elements are in place.  Check them out!

3. What are your passions in ministry? (And/or what keeps you up at night?)

My passion in ministry is connecting the core commitments of the congregations I serve with the concerns and dreams of people whose work and lives are in deep alignment with the Kingdom of God but who have–for whatever reason–been disaffected or disappointed by the church.  I love to mix it up with “lowbrow” artists and the societal shot-callers who are often surprised by the passion and conviction of the people who call BSM or ASPC their church home.  I love challenging the assumptions held by some that the church is limp, inert and overly concerned with comfort, safety and institutional survival.  I like to get into the deep end with people who are trying to make a splash in society that could result in a more just Philadelphia.

4. What is one thing you are looking forward to at the NEXT Gathering?

I relish conversation with people who are looking for the courage and the company to be the church in a more generous and bold fashion.  I met quite a few folks like that at NEXT last year.  I tend to shy away from conferences but this feels fresh to me.

5. Describe NEXT in seven words or less.

I have high hopes for NEXT but I am not sure we know yet what it will be.  If I were to sum up my hopes for what NEXT will be is:Community for those who believe restlessness, courage, and relentlessness are spiritual qualities worth cultivating. (That’s more than 7 but that’s what I’ve got.)