Our Story

Our Name

The Welcome Table is a traditional African American spiritual composed by an anonymous author, who was likely enslaved. It begins:

I’m gonna sit at the welcome table

I’m gonna sit at the welcome table one of these days

The Welcome Table is one of the most commonly sung hymns in Black churches all over the U.S., including St. James’. The song was first recorded in 1922 and was frequently adapted during the civil rights movement to include lyrics such as “I’m gonna be a registered voter” and “I’m gonna sit at the Woolworth counter.” One popular version is attributed to a group of Freedom Schools scholars in Mississippi. 

During services at St. James’, we say together in call-and-response: “Wherever you are on your journey of faith: you are welcome at this table.” Watch a video of the St. James’ Episcopal choir singing The Welcome Table here.

Our Shared History

Welcome Table, Inc. is a non-profit organization established in 2011 by parishioners of St. James’ Episcopal Church. 

We faithfully advance a cycle of giving and receiving that began in 1941 with the founding of St. James’ by 16 Black Episcopalians, who built a church home where they and their families would be truly welcome. 

Our church went through a visioning process in the 1980s that led us to the practice of radical hospitality and a conscious commitment to diversity and inclusion. Today, we welcome all abilities, all races, all ethnicities, and  genders, and all sexual identities. 

In the 1990s, we began community wellness initiatives that would evolve into Welcome Table. A major point of growth happened when we received a grant from St. Luke’s Health Charities in 2005, allowing us to expand and hire a Parish Nurse. 

St. James’ began Spanish-language services in 2004, and under Jim Harrington’s leadership became a missional community of the diocese called Proyecto Santiago. In 2007, we built a new home on Webberville Road in East Austin to serve our growing multicultural community and support our widening base of programming. 

We started our food pantry in 2011,  and in 2014 we partnered with the Children’s Defense Fund. Today our signature programs, Neighbor 2 Neighbor and Freedom Schools, continue in the St. James’ tradition to demonstrate a deep commitment to Dr. King’s inclusive vision of Beloved Community.