SFJFS Session 6 Insights

Come to the Table’s School for Food Justice, Faith, and Storytelling (SFJFS) held its fifth session on March , featuring an exercise on the depth of stories that the Judeo-Christian Scriptures have to offer about food, agriculture, and economy.

While this cohort of SFJFS is not open for new members, we thought it would be helpful to share five insights from each session with our network. Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up to date on the latest information from the Come to the Table team.

Five Insights from Session 6

“Eating joins people to each other, to other creatures and the world, and to God…” (Norman Wirzba, Food and Faith, 41)

Participants read a chapter of Norman Wirzba’s Food and Faith to ground our time together on the importance of food and agriculture in the Judeo-Christian story. Wirzba’s quote helped center our discussion on how breaking bread together takes us out of our individualistic, efficiency-first ways and instead creates a deep interpersonal connection, reminds us of our creatureliness and connection to creation, and prompts us to consider our dependence on God’s abundance.

Scripture is filled with stories about food, agriculture, and economics that speak to our present moment.

Come to the Table Project Manager David Allen led an exercise on Lee Anne Bell’s four types of stories that were first introduced in SFJFS Session 1. Participants mapped the four types of stories – stock, concealed, resistance, and emerging – onto scripture, finding food and agricultural stories that are often overly relied on or on the contrary, regularly overlooked. This approach helped “deconstruct conventional and privileged readings” of Scripture, according to one cohort member. Participants made connections between a myriad of Scriptural stories that helped open up something fresh and evocative about the other. One participant remarked, “Scripture might reveal new truths if we are willing to try new ways of looking at it – it is sacred but not fragile.”

When we focus on stock stories of food and faith, we miss the chance to be challenged and transformed. 

After a brainstorming session, participants were able to identify five to ten stories about food that are routinely proclaimed, such as Jesus feeding the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21) or the provision of manna in the desert (Exodus 16). Cohort members spent time discussing new angles to take on these well-told stories and finding other stories throughout scripture that can be paired with stock stories to provide new life. One participant shared, “scripture that never challenges us as individuals and as communities is a dead reading that never liberates or leads to flourishing.”

Eating together is regularly an integral part of the life of a faith community, while teaching about food is often overlooked.

Participants unanimously agreed that food was central to their faith community in a variety of ways – some groups eat meals every Sunday after worship, others eat together on big occasions like the high Holy days, and  many cook meals for those who are sick or recently lost loved ones. Contrarily, many participants had never been a part of a Bible study about food and faith or had heard frequent sermons on food. In this session, participants explored what a sermon series or Bible study on food and agriculture could look like and how talking about these topics could bring new life to the many meals shared by faith community members.

Stories from Scripture help shape the why of our collective work

Simply beginning the session with a question: “What stories in Scripture do you find about food, economy and agriculture?” opened up an array of responses, reactions, and motivations. Jesus might be telling his followers to feed the hungry; he might also at the same time be ushering in a new kind of economy that would allow everyone to provide for themselves. While many things can be true at once, reading stock, concealed, resistance, and emerging stories found in Scripture with other faith leaders is a practice that helps solidify the purpose of their food ministries. Further, reading stories with others who might see things differently might encourage or inspire others to act or react differently in their communities.

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