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Louisville congregation welcomes Mid-Kentucky Presbytery family to celebrate Juneteenth


Shawnee Presbyterian Church relaunches its Café Ginkgo ministry on Saturday with a community lunch celebration

by Emily Enders Odom, Mission Communications | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Carrie Klinge is served by Brenda Stoney during Saturday’s celebration of the relaunch of Café Gingko at Shawnee Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Shawnee member Bill Hardy is by the door, while Brenda Rodgers was also serving during the celebration. (Photos by Emily Enders Odom)

LOUISVILLE – History is important to Dianne White.

And so is her Presbyterian family.

Which is why White and a core of dedicated volunteers from Shawnee Presbyterian Church took on what others might have considered impossible — hosting a presbytery-wide Juneteenth lunch in the midst of a major kitchen renovation at the church.

“We can do this,” White said.

White, a retired guidance counselor from Jefferson County Public Schools and a ruling elder at Shawnee, one of the four historic African-American congregations of Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, had long advocated that the church be more engaged with the neighborhood.

“We need to be a resource seven days a week, not just one hour a week,” said White. “We need to be open to the community all the time.”

Café Gingko, named for a hardy ginkgo tree growing outside the doors of the church, got off to a promising start in August 2019.

Inspired by Central Presbyterian Church’s community lunch program, for which White had served as a volunteer for nearly 10 years, Café Gingko began as a free Monday night dinner primarily for the Shawnee neighborhood’s single mothers and children facing food insecurity.

Then, not even a year later, Shawnee had to close the café due to insufficient resources when the pandemic hit.

Yet the 30-member church was not discouraged from becoming the church that White and its membership had long dreamed it could be in and for its community.

When Shawnee had the opportunity to apply for a Birthday Offering grant, one of Presbyterian Women’s (PW) two offerings which funds up to five projects each year in amounts of $75,000 to $150,000 each, White saw it as a chance to resurrect Café Gingko.

But when it came time for the grant application to be signed and submitted, Shawnee was too small to even have a PW moderator for the requisite signature.

From left representing Central Presbyterian Church are Delia Barr, Carrie Klinge, Lee Beckhusen, the Rev. Dr. Ann Deibert and Martha Kenney.

“Because several congregations in the presbytery have adopted us,” said White, “Carol Noffsinger, Central Presbyterian’s PW moderator, signed off on our application and wrote the letter of recommendation for our PW Birthday Offering grant.”

On Sept. 20, 2023, when Shawnee was informed that the church was awarded $150,000 as one of PW’s 2024 Birthday Offering recipients, the kitchen renovation project — along with much-needed improvements to the church’s fellowship hall — began in earnest.

The idea of holding a Juneteenth celebration first came up at the March meeting of the Shawnee Administrative Commission, which was created in May 2023 by the presbytery with original jurisdiction over Shawnee at the church’s own request. It was there that general presbyter the Rev. Dr. John L. Odom brought up the idea of a “pop-up presbytery event” on June 15.

Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday in 2021, traces its roots to Major General Gordon Granger’s announcement of the abolition of slavery in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Observed annually on June 19, the holiday commemorates the final communication of the abolition of slavery in the United States.

“The next time I saw John [Odom] at a committee meeting, I asked him, ‘Were you serious when you said for us to host a lunch for Juneteenth?’” White said, “but then I knew we could do it. We may not have a full-time pastor, but all churches should function like this. We’re fortunate that we all get along and work well together.”

White immediately enlisted the help of not only dedicated church volunteers but also a team of excellent cooks, since everything at Café Gingko is made from scratch.

Thanks to a professional flyer designed by volunteer graphic artist Julia Youngblood, Shawnee’s Juneteenth celebration was heavily promoted during the presbytery’s May 18 bus tour of Louisville’s racial history. That event was sponsored by Mid-Kentucky Presbytery and the “Beloved Community,” the so-named partnership between Shawnee and Harvey Browne Presbyterian Church, which was created more than a decade ago to help address Louisville’s East-West divide. Each of the presbytery’s four African American congregations is paired with a predominantly white church, with each seeking to grow and deepen their relationships.

At the recent “sold-out” tour, during which area Presbyterians explored local African American history and finished by sharing a meal together at Shawnee, churches throughout the presbytery already began to mark their calendars to return on June 15 for the Juneteenth celebration.

Members of Shawnee Presbyterian Church are, from left, Brenda Rodgers, Brenda Stoney and Dianne White.

That’s a date which happened to coincide with the Kentuckiana Pride Festival in Louisville.

“When we were on the bus tour and had lunch at Shawnee, they invited us to come back on June 15,” said Carrie Klinge, a member of Central. “I talked with our pastor, Ann [Deibert], to get an announcement into our newsletter for people to come and celebrate Juneteenth right after our group from Central walked in the Louisville Pride Parade.”

In all, more than 70 people attended the Juneteenth lunch.

“Our presbytery showed up and showed out,” said White. “Every table was full. It was like a presbytery meeting. Or a reunion. Truly it has been a blessing.”

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