The teacups of wine are for a good cause.

In the parish hall of the Federated Church in Edgartown, the meatballs are nestled in vats of marinara, the salad is tossed and the butternut squash soup has been blended. In turn, the berry-red liquid is nestled in porcelain cups in the absence of wine glasses. This is a church, after all.

“You have to make it convivial,” said Jeanne Staples, the organizer behind Joyful Eatings, the Federated Church’s latest initiative to provide weekly meals to the Harbor Homes winter shelter.

Conviviality is the word of the afternoon, as six volunteer sous chefs swap stories and kitchen tips while they prepare the night’s dinner. They are led by private chef and church moderator Gretchen Regan and her daughter Eva Faber and Lexie Roth, co-owners of the Island food truck Goldie’s Rotisserie. 

Church and community volunteers pitch in on the chopping and cutting.

“There’s something about cooking that’s a really nice community activity,” Ms. Regan said. “You’re preparing food to take care of other people. It’s human nature.”

Before Harbor Homes absorbed the Island’s homeless services, several churches, including the Federated Church, rotated to provide shelter and resources in a program called Houses of Grace. Since the seasonal shelter has moved to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, Ms. Staples explained, some churches have continued to provide weekly meals at Harbor Homes’ request. This is the first time, however, the Federated Church has decided to invite professional expertise to help lead the preparation.

“It’s a win-win all around,” said Gail Croteau, the volunteer who brought the wine. “We volunteer to cook every Sunday, and some people do it on their own, but to have a chef come and teach us how to cook is really fun.”

“Except for the fact that I’m missing the Patriots game,” she added.

Tasked with making 10 hearty meals for the shelter guests, the three chefs developed this week’s menu from Goldie’s Italian dinner pop-up last December. Under their tutelage, the kitchen is a well-oiled machine, thanks in part to a gallon-sized bottle of olive oil.

Sharon Eckhardt and Jeanne Staples. — Ray Ewing

“When I was in culinary school, we kept a tasting spoon in the pocket of our aprons,” Ms. Regan demonstrated over a bowl of butternut squash soup. “Then you use another spoon to pour it in to keep your germs to yourself.”

Using her two-spoon method, Ms. Regan doles out a spoonful of soup to each team member. The collective decides to add a little more salt.

“I volunteer one night a week at the shelter,” one cook, Donna Roades, said. “The guests, they’re usually guys, they so look forward to a home-cooked meal. They want seconds immediately, they go ‘whoever made this, it’s so delicious’...It’s really delightful.”

The new initiative, Ms. Staples said, holds the dual purpose of connecting the church community and bringing visibility to the Island’s homeless community.

“Before the shelter moved, there were more opportunities for the congregation to talk to the guests and see that they were just normal people,” Ms. Staples said. “We want to provide that opportunity again and help people feel more connected, less distant.”

In the church kitchen with Karen Meeks and Betsy Dripps.

Joyful Eatings arrives at a transition point for the 380-year old church, which recently put up its historic Mayhew Parsonage for sale. In the past two years, church officials and volunteers have undergone what they call a visioning process to determine the future of the organization. Joyful Eatings is one of the products of those discussions. The decision to sell the parsonage was another.

“It was a source of angst in our church,” Ms. Regan said. “We just don’t have the income we used to, so we can’t afford a big house anymore...It was not a decision anyone made lightly. There were tears.”

The Federated Church has also hired a new pastor, Rev. Mark T. Winters, who begins on Feb. 13 and preaches his first sermon to the congregation on Feb. 19.

“We’re very excited about [Mark],” Ms. Staples said. “He’s very dynamic.”

Amid a period of upheaval, Ms. Staples hopes the new program, which is open to all members of the community and will feature a rotating cast of Island chefs, helps attract more service-minded individuals to the church and to the cause.

“We’ve committed to 11 weeks, about six volunteers per week,” she said. “We hope to fill every sign-up sheet.”

One volunteer, Kara O’Sullivan, has already answered the call, signing up for the event after volunteering at other organizations.

“I’m not a part of the church,” she said. “But I’ve always been a volunteer, and it can be nice to get in with a different group every now and then.”

A longtime baker and former kitchen worker, Ms. O’Sullivan got her start at the Old Stone Bakery in Edgartown. In her volunteer work, she looks for opportunities to have a direct impact and, with her cooking experience, she thought Joyful Eatings would be a natural fit.

“Working alongside’s what seeds community,” she said. “Ten years later when people ask how you met, you can say ‘chopping celery.”