Christian Food Movement

by Christine Sine

Lords Cup and Bread by John Snyder, used with permission

By Nurya Love Parish

“Faith is stepping out on nothing and landing on something.” – Cornel West

I’m a Christian pastor starting a farm that grows people, along with good food. Two years ago, my food and faith hero, the founder of Hazon and the catalyst for the Jewish movement, Nigel Savage said this:

“I went into Google this afternoon, and in quote marks… I typed ‘Christian Food Movement,’ and there were two hits. I typed ‘Jewish Food Movement,’ and there were 81,300 hits.”

When I read Nigel’s words, I got frustrated. I knew that there actually was a Christian food movement – there were seminaries and researchers and bloggers and different sectors in the Christian world working at the intersection of faith and food.

And Nigel was right – this movement was invisible. Many people were doing good work, but there was no common platform that brought people together to pray for one another, offer resources and help, and catalyze a larger conversation.

When I started looking for it, the Christian food movement was huge. The list is incomplete, and still there are four international organizations, fourteen national organizations, dozens of regional organizations with ministry focused on the area of food, faith, and sustainable agriculture. There are farms and gardens with a specific Christian faith component – farms which teach care of Creation, farms which exist to feed the hungry.

Different denominations have published resources specific to their faith tradition. There are farm, garden and dinner churches. Women’s religious orders are serving as hubs for sustainability. Seminaries are putting gardens on their campuses, developing creation care certificates, and developing farm-based learning programs. Christian curricula on food systems issues have been published by individuals and denominations for every age range. And recently there has been a veritable explosion of published literature: Farming as Spiritual Discipline. Making Peace with the Land. Bread and Wine. Faith in Food. Baptized with the Soil.

I gathered it all together and in March of 2015 I put out the first version of a resource guide now titled Welcome to the Christian Food Movement. It has everything I could find that fits at the intersection of food, faith, and sustainable agriculture. It’s 27 free pages of links and descriptions.

For more than a decade, I’ve felt called to start a farm as ministry. Before I started this work I thought I was crazy and alone. After I published the first version I realized I was neither. I don’t aim to define or organize a Christian food movement. I created the guide because I didn’t want to feel crazy and alone anymore. What I didn’t expect was that it would draw me into conversation with so many people who work at this intersection: whose work inspires me.

There is radical risk-taking on the part of these Christian food movement pioneers, the kind of risk-taking that comes when you know you are stepping out on nothing and yet you keep landing on something. And there is a sense that no matter how hard the work is – and let me tell you, stepping out on nothing every day is hard work – it is necessary. It is necessary for the glorification of God by the disciples of Jesus Christ, in whom all things were made and through whom all things are being made new.

Why do we need a Christian food movement?

Today, within church buildings, the book of Genesis is read, proclaiming that human beings are of one substance with the dust of the earth. But most faithful Christians don’t have any idea that chemical fertilizer applied to monoculture lawns contributes to the decline of soil tilth. They believe God made the soil, and they believe they should tend it, but the church hasn’t taught them how to do so – the fertilizer company has.

Within church buildings, certified kitchens go unused. Outside, secular organizations wonder how to find a kitchen to redevelop a local living economy with a sustainable foodshed. Because many churches don’t realize that their certified kitchen could be part of their ministry in the community.

We live in an era of climate change when churches own thousands of acres of land but have never heard of carbon farming.

Young people who want to go into sustainable agriculture get stuck because they can’t figure out how to access land and capital. And churches with land and capital get stuck because they don’t have young people.

For all these reasons and more, I’ve come to see this Christian food movement as a sleeping giant – a potential for change at an unprecedented scale for both the church and the country at large.

I’ve also come to see a Christian food movement as a natural outgrowth of our faith. Because when Christ was getting ready to lay down his life for our salvation, he didn’t build a building and he didn’t install a bureaucracy. He invited his friends – and his mortal enemy – to a meal. Not just any meal, but a Passover feast, a feast of liberation from slavery, a feast in celebration of the Creator of the Universe’s claim on his people. And he asked us to eat and drink in remembrance of him. Our Lord promised to be present with us through a meal.

As we celebrate Earth Day, I remember that first Communion meal. I remember the Grace of God in Creation and the beauty of the earth from which all meals come. And I pray for a Christian food movement that brings together diverse people to share in holy food and tend a holy earth. I pray this Earth Day, that together, we will step out on nothing – and land on something.

(Want the Christian food movement guide? You can get the latest version here.)

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1 comment

Kate Rae Davis April 27, 2016 - 1:00 pm

A sleeping giant – so true! I’ve noticed SO MANY books and articles on this theme, but without a unifying phrase. Thanks for your compilation and awareness work here.

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