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by Judith Hruz
The holidays are about giving, gathering with friends and family, and sharing food for the body and soul.
Some might say this is the perfect holiday story because it includes all of that.
Once upon a time, a Brookeville resident, Cristin Cooper, combined her ministry — she is a United Methodist Local Licensed Pastor — and her business, Coop’s Soups, into Soup Church and Coop’s Soups, a New Faith Expression within the United Methodist Church.
Thinking outside of the box has allowed her to use her talent and her faith to minister to the community in a fundamental way.
Soup Church is a dinner church. The service looks more like a dinner with friends than a formal Sunday morning service. Coop’s Soups is served as a main course.
Coop’s Soups profits support Soup Church. Coop’s Soups is vegan, gluten-free, locally sourced soup made to share “as an awesome way to make friends and fight off loneliness,” Cooper said. “As we say at Coop’s Soups, eating soup (eating anything!) is an invitation to slow down and become present to the food in front of us and the people we share it with.”
Coop’s Soups sources veggies locally from Sandy Spring Gardens, Common Root Farm and the Farm at Our House, to name a few of the neighboring farms, Cooper said.
Coop’s Soups is sold at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market, The Family Room in Laytonsville and online at Common Root Farm in Derwood.
Two weeks before Christmas, John Barbee, a loyal customer of Coop’s Soups since 2019, when the organization first started making and selling soup at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market, visited the market in early November with the desire to support two of his favorite small food businesses this holiday season: Coop’s Soups and Han’s of Westminster.
“This was an opportunity to kill not just two, but three, birds with one stone: Support Coop’s Soups ministry, support one of my favorite local businesses (Hahn’s of Westminster) and give something to those who might not have enough at this moment,” he said to Cooper.
Barbee is an example of what Coop’s Soups is about, Cooper said.
“John has become a family friend,” she said. “This is the community-building magic of the farmers market shopping experience. Customers and business owners genuinely get to know one another.”
Larry Konefal, another loyal soup customer and friend, and his wife, Lynn, donated the other soup-making ingredients: beans, celery, carrots and onions.
Cooper posted on Facebook about John’s donation of hams, and after seeing that post, Larry Konefal visited the Olney Farmers Market the following Sunday and offered his physical and financial assistance.
She knew Konefal had a recipe for ham-and-bean soup, so Cooper asked if he would share it and lead those that showed up to cook.
“Larry said he was happy to help in this way and also that he would cover the rest of the soup-making ingredients,” Cooper said.
The celery and carrots were sold to Konefal at a wholesale price from Common Root Farm in Derwood and Gorman Farms in Highland, Cooper said, which are “two of the farms Coop’s Soups locally sources from.”
On Dec. 12, 12 people turned out to for a “Soup-Making to Donate” gathering at Salem United Methodist Church in Brookeville.
As a United Methodist pastor, Cooper is friends with the Rev. Emily Hart at Salem United Methodist.
“I am so grateful for her and Salem’s generosity in sharing their space with Coop’s Soups,” she said.
All of Coop’s Soup’s soups are made at Salem United Methodist.
A second soup-making event was set for Dec. 19 but canceled due to growing concerns over the swift spread of COVID-19.
At the end of the cooking session, 11 gallons of soup were available for others to enjoy. The coup was donated to Community Food Rescue who distributed it to Montgomery Station. The remaining hams that would have been used on Dec. 19 also were donated to Community Food Rescue.
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