Bread in the Wilderness 2016 summer seminar on food, faith, and ecological well-being

Each year, Wake Forest University School of Divinity's Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative hosts a food and faith intensive in western North Carolina. Here, amidst holy ground, faith leaders gather for 5-days to participate in God's active renewal of the face of the earth and explore the ways they are called to join God in that good work.

The guiding question:

How can we think and act holistically about our interrelated challenges - ecological degradation, social inequity, and climate change - all of which find their focus around food?

"And his disciples replied, 'How can one feed these people with bread in the wilderness?'" [Mark 8:4]

Can God spread a table in the wilderness? [Psalm 78:19]

Lectures by Old Testament scholar Bill Brown. Workshop tracks on Christ-centered ecological conversion and grounded worship spirituality. Ancient practices of faith with morning and evening prayers - sometimes with words - but mostly in silence. A house concert with recording artist Julie Lee. A shared eucharistic meal in the garden at the end of course. All of this and more inspired the 36 participants by awakening and enlivening their hearts, minds, and bodies to savor and save God's good earth.

By listening to the voice of creation in the Bible... its praise and lament, provision and abundance, wounds and renewal... there is great wonder and surprise.

About Her Experience:

Bread in the Wilderness was invaluable. Not only as I work to develop a Food and Faith effort at my home church in Washington, DC, but also in better understanding the critical role faith communities can – and should – play in the national movement to change the way we grow and consume food.

It was the perfect combination of relevant bible teaching with engaging discussion, hands-on workshops that brought the work to life, and perhaps above all else, intentional moments to be in community with others equally as passionate about our food system and the environment.

I left energized about my own journey, but also with a much greater understanding of the God-led passion that is driving so many incredible efforts across the country that together will produce real change.

Stacy Molander, Chief Partner Officer, Partnership for a Healthier America

Partnership for a Healthier America works to ensure the health of our nation’s youth. Among its leadership is First Lady Michelle Obama.

Vision and Hope

One morning during the conference we were discussing forest architecture. A mature forest needs a shrub layer, young trees that in twenty or thirty years will grow up to replace the canopy layer. A mature forest without a shrub layer is a forest that cannot replenish itself. It occurred to me that our purpose in gatherings like these is to feed the shrub layer of Christian leaders. We're identifying young leaders engaged in the work of food justice and earth care, the shrubs, and providing in the form of biblical study, workshops, and worship, the shelter and nutrients necessary for these leaders to grow.

Fred Bahnson, Course Leader & Director of the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative

Have a listen to singer-songwriter Julie Lee:

About His Experience

Working on food and faith issues in South Florida has been a lonely path. Although our project has been blessed with steady growth of people, food and ideas, I don't have many peers with whom to generate ideas, vent frustrations, and collaborate. Bread in the Wilderness provided a supportive environment at both the people and idea levels. We exchanged stories, worked together on outlining the "big picture" during the morning sessions, and got our hands dirty in the process with workshops on gardening and bread making. In addition, the contemplative frame of mountains and trees provided meaningful quiet times, and the chanted devotions provided an emotional deepness that was refreshing to the soul.

Flavio Sloat, Executive Director, The Fruitful Field

The Fruitful Field models creative and sustainable use of land, provide dynamic hands-on learning opportunities for all ages, and build healthy relationships with the local community and beyond

The Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative at Wake Forest University School of Divinity seeks to renew theological education for the 21st century by equipping religious leaders with the knowledge, skills, and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.

We live in an age when we can no longer ignore the ecological context in which all our personal and social actions play out. For people of faith in search of wisdom with which to respond to our current “ecology of injustice,” these annual courses offer knowledge, tools, and disciplines to help us all “seek the peace” of the places in which we dwell.

Whether you are a faith leader or a person who simply wants to go deeper into these issues in your own life, we invite you to partner with us in our work.

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WFU School of Divinity

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