Seminarians organize fundraising, blood drive efforts

Over the past month,  a pair of events organized by student seminarians displayed the nature of service, generosity and social justice that has become a defining characteristic of the community of Seminary of the Southwest.

On February 22nd, seminarian Lauren Kay organized a blood drive at the campus of Seminary of the Southwest, inviting Austin’s We Are Blood (formerly Austin Blood Bank) to bring one of their mobile donation centers to Southwest. Said Kay, “In the wake of Hurricane Harvey we discussed several ways to respond. One way was through hosting a blood drive to address needs elevated by the disaster. Many other groups also had that idea, and We Are Blood booked up through the end of the year quickly. Blood is an ever-present need, however, so we decided to host a blood drive early this spring.”

Kay reflected on the ongoing need for donated blood, “A little bit of blood goes a long way. It’s super easy to donate, and doesn’t take long. Several students showed up to support, though some were ineligible to give due to strict donation guidelines. We even had some folks come over from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, which was great! One SSW student remark stood out: ‘I was on-call as chaplain at the hospital during the blood drive, so I couldn’t donate, but as I saw people coming in who needed blood literally to stay alive, I thought, I know where some of that blood is coming from. Right now my friends are helping save lives.'”

On March 3rd, students hosted the Southwest Showdown, a barbecue competition held annually that raises funds for Episcopal Relief and Development. Friends of the seminary cooked through the night to compete, and serve ribs and brisket to a festive group of attendees. The 2018 Southwest Showdown was chaired by Richelle Thompson and co-chaired by Joe Pierjok. Pierjok will chair the 2019 event.

Thompson explained the uniqueness of the event: “I think what makes the Southwest Showdown special is a combination of things – its a student driven tradition that offers seminarians a chance to engage practically in fundraising and event planning on behalf of a great cause.  But maybe more importantly, the Showdown is a time to engage with our neighbors in Austin – some who first learn about SSW by walking up for a plate of brisket.  But mainly, the Showdown is really made special by the folks who compete.  The teams are largely sponsored by Episcopal parishes, current or former seminarians, or other folks from the Austin area.  They each come for their own reasons, they each bring something special, and show up to participate in good-natured competition – which is what makes the event a success.  I think it’s an important part of our community life for all of those reasons and because its a really fun afternoon.”

The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge feels that these efforts are are valuable components of leadership formation. “The students demonstrate passion for justice and exercise servant leadership,” said Kittredge. “It is a critical part of our intentional community of formation; they are getting real world experience in how to move a community to action.”