Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma - Baker at Kindred Church


Tell us about yourself!

I grew up in Houston, rolling down the hill at Miller Outdoor Theater and cheering on the Astros, although I've spent the last few years on the family farm in Round Top with my husband, Mark, and our daughter, Marley.  I was baptized into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a baby and was always active in the life of the church.  I remember taking on the task of raising money for a Polish orphanage when I was in grade school, sitting in our Pastor's office for in-depth conversations, and putting Sunday School teachers through hell.  I talked about becoming a pastor,  but as I got older I knew I wanted to be a mover and shaker just maybe not in the church.  I graduated from Texas Lutheran University with a degree in Business, and eventually got my Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary’s Distributed Learning program.  I had become disenchanted with the bureaucracy of the church, its general apathy in the face of injustice, and the rote faith that seemed hollow.  But ultimately I fell in love with God's people and our traditions of faith and ritual, our stories of chaos, mystery, and redemption. My journey has included work in Nonprofit Development, Youth Ministry, Mission Development, Media and Design.  I was so excited to be called as the Restart Pastor with KINDRED because of the wide open space for creativity, especially in such an eclectic and vibrant neighborhood.  We took a church that was almost 100 years old and dying (Grace Lutheran), gave it a proper burial, and made way for the new life of resurrection in KINDRED.  Everything in the life of the church came back to ground zero to start over fresh. I wasn't sure I'd ever get to serve a church where I could just be myself without biting my tongue or putting on a facade, but Montrose is where I got my first tattoo and to be here is to be home. This is my first call as Pastor and I'm looking forward to following her passion for creativity and justice in her first call.

What is the story behind baking bread? 

KINDRED is Houston's only Dinner Church.  In the historic sanctuary, under the light of stained glass windows, we built tables and brought in chairs.  The old pews are now bench seats to a sacred meal that blends traditional liturgy with lively conversation.  It's church, but over dinner.  We gather on Sunday evenings and break bread together because that is what Jesus did, that is what humanity has been doing for eons, and because the table is a place where we can begin to recognize the face of God in someone we thought was a stranger.  Every week we have fresh bread with our meal and we've learned that this community is home to several talented bakers.  We're always learning more about our neighbors, their passions and gifts.  What's happening is the cultivation of an ecosystem where one thing feeds the next, which feeds the next, which goes back to the first.  It's how we make the most of what God has given us.  One of our neighbors in that ecosystem is the Central City Co-op (http://www.centralcityco-op.com/) which is the oldest organic co-op in town and makes its home right here in our fellowship hall every Wednesday.  The old stage was converted to cold storage and fresh local foods fill the space each week.  We began to shop from them to get our ingredients for Dinner Church, but noticed there wasn't any bread for sale.  We were just getting our feet on the ground, so we weren't sure what to do with that yet, but tucked the observation away in our minds for the Holy Spirit to work on.  Meanwhile, I met another Mission Developer on the east coast, Zach Kerzee of Simple Church (http://www.simpleumc.org), who started a dinner church that was also a bakery.  It was one of those cosmic moments when we both knew we had found a kindred spirit who shared our hopes for the church and knew the realties of giving those hopes shape and form.  Zach gave me a starter recipe and coached me through the first few batches (and let's be honest, I still have him on speed dial).  

One Sunday, as an act of worship, our community mixed together 12 bowls of dough to create our Organic Country Loaf.  As we mixed, we prayed in the ancient way of ora et labora, prayer and work.  Like monasteries of old, there is a rhythm and spirituality to our life together. like Sarah measuring out flour for Abraham's angel guests, there is something both primal and sacred in the process.  We sold most of the loaves at the Co-Op, but saved a few to give away to neighbors who recently had a baby, folks who were hungry on the street, and public servants who go under-appreciated.  The next week we sold out entirely.  Who can resist the smell of fresh bread as we bake it up on Wednesday mornings?  Still, we are committed to setting aside the first loaves to give away to others in the community. So now Dinner Church sources ingredients from the Co-Op, leftovers are given to those who need them, we contribute to the Co-Op with our bread, and the monies made go back into the ministry of the church. All the while, people are brought together in simple ways that cultivate profound connection.  And that's where God is revealed - in relationships, in the in's and out's of the everyday, in this diverse city we call home.

What is the most influential book you have ever read?

There have been several pivotal books that helped shape me - Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian" was the book of my youth that named the struggles I was having with a stagnant institutional church; Lauren Winner's "Girl Meets God" and "Mudhouse Sabbath" articulated similar struggles and reclaimed ancient spirituality, ritual and mystery for me.  Andy Root's "Promise of Despair" provided this wrenching and liberating theology of the cross that doesn't shy away from the deep dark guts of life.  Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz's "En La Lucha" introduced me to wider understandings of God through mujerista and liberation theology.  Heidi Neumark's "Breathing Space" gave voice to the challenge and beauty of being an urban pastor who enters fully into the death and resurrection of her neighborhood while also raising young children.  I could relate to her story so vividly and was inspired in so many simple ways. Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and poets like Hafiz and Rumi taught me that the Gospel, the good news of light overcoming darkness, is fraught with beauty and can be found in so many unexpected places.  It's not just the books in the religious section (although, I obviously hang out in that section a lot). There are so many more, from Harry Potter to Malcolm Gladwell that are so embedded in my world that I almost don't even recognize when their lessons come out in everyday life.

Contact Information: 

To pre-order bread: http://www.centralcityco-op.com/store/p73/Kindred_Country_Loaf.html

https://www.facebook.com/kindredmontrose

www.kindredmontrose.org