Seminary of the Southwest’s BBQ Showdown for a Great Cause

Barbecue is serious business in Austin, Texas.  But it’s also a great way to bring people together for food, fun, fellowship, and a bit of friendly competition! 

That’s why Episcopalians and friends from miles around are already marking their calendars for the second annual Southwest Showdown Barbecue, hosted by the Episcopal Relief & Development Seminary Coordinators at Austin’s Seminary of the Southwest.

The event, set to take place on Saturday, February 22, 2014, will feature teams of ‘cue enthusiasts from across the country competing in two categories – beef brisket and pork ribs – for fame, glory and, most importantly, bragging rights.  The family-friendly event will include a bouncy house and petting zoo for kids, and all proceeds will go to support Episcopal Relief & Development’s “Animals and Agriculture” programs worldwide.

“The barbecue was planned because a small group of seminarians wanted to make people more familiar with the work being done in the US and other countries,” explains senior Christian Baron, who led the effort to organize last year’s event.  “We felt that if we could familiarize future clergy with Episcopal Relief & Development then they would be more inclined to participate in the good work being done around the globe.”

Episcopal Relief & Development’s Seminary Network is a group of volunteers who seek to spread the word about the organization throughout the Episcopal seminaries in the United States.  They are part of Episcopal Relief & Development’s volunteer network, which also includes Provincial and Diocesan Coordinators, and Parish Representatives at the congregation level.

“The Seminary Coordinators are an extremely important part of our Network of volunteers,” said Sean McConnell, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Director of Engagement.  “We want to equip tomorrow’s church leaders with a deeper understanding of our mission and development methodology, and to help them grow deeper in relationship with their Episcopal and Anglican counterparts around the world.”

Baron hopes the upcoming event will bring the Seminary Network closer together: “I would love it if any of the other seminaries wanted to field a barbecue team,” he said.  “We will waive their entry fee and they can sleep on our couches.  It would be great to see them participate so we can find out which seminary has the best barbecue!”

Last year’s competition brought 13 teams from as far away as Oklahoma, and over 200 guests turned out to eat, vote and enjoy the beautiful February day.  Three Seminary of the Southwest grads formed a band that provided entertainment during the event, and a group of seminarians’ children made cupcakes and held a bake sale to do their part.  This year’s fundraising goal is $10,000, and the organizers hope that ticket sales, team registration fees and general donations will help the event to make a significant contribution toward Episcopal Relief & Development’s work of healing a hurting world.

Building on the success of last year’s event, Baron, who admits that “barbecue up north [in western Michigan, where he is from] is ground beef mixed with a can of ‘Manwich’ and cooked in the crock-pot for eight hours,” is working with fellow senior Perry Mullins of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas and the new Seminary Coordinator, middler Tom Dahlman from the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma.  Dahlman’s diocese comes into this year’s competition with a win under its belt for Best Brisket, thanks to Tulsa’s “Smokin’ Trolls.”  Best Ribs last year went to Austin’s “Longhorn Cooks,” and Rod Clark and Clayton Sheppard from the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas claimed the 2013 People’s Choice Award.

“The first annual Southwest Showdown Barbecue was incredible,” said Mullins, who is heading up the organizing team this year.  “So much food and fun, and such a great cause!  It was a huge success by all accounts, but we know we can still grow.  We hope this February to double the number of participants and guests, and we are excited to continue to share the work of the Gospel being done by Episcopal Relief & Development with this community and with the whole church.  We cannot wait to see everyone in February and to eat up some incredible barbecue together!”

Interested teams can register online at

Competition Winners at Seminary of the Southwest BBQ    Grill at Seminary of the Southwest BBQ    Petting Zoo at Seminary of the Southwest BBQ

All photos courtesy of the Seminary of the Southwest.  More images from the 2013 Showdown are here.