Eating Together: Churches Build Green Communities

Read the stories of inspiring church communities addressing climate catastrophe by eating sustainable food.


| March 2013



Sacred Acts

“Sacred Acts” shows that churches can play a critical role in confronting climate change—perhaps the greatest moral imperative of our time. This timely collection will inspire individuals and congregations to act in good faith to help protect Earth's climate.

Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers

Sacred Acts: How Churches Are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate (New Society Publishers, 2012) is a collection of stories from across North America of contemporary church leaders, parishioners and religious activists who are working to define a new environmental movement, where honoring their religion means protecting the planet. The following excerpt is a story of several churches that are building green communities by eating together—promoting human interaction and climate care through sustainable food. 

We do not have to get our hands into the earth to participate in the humus—we do that consciously or unconsciously, justly or unjustly, every time we eat. But to truly honor the humus, to honor the work of farmers and the abundant creation of which we are all a part, we must change our role from passive consumers of food to coproducers. This means that we must learn to cook, mold, knead and chop.

We must come to understand the differences in oven temperatures and the black arts of substitution and improvisation when our ingredients do not meet the instructions laid out for us in a recipe. We must become cooks and dishwashers — we must own, once again, the processes of our life as productive members of those processes.

I can think of no better example of a church that has taken on this role of coproducers than Englewood Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Englewood is an unusual church—a traditional Christian congregation mixed with what they like to call an “un”-intentional community. Over its 100-year history the church had slowly become a commuter church as members moved away and the neighborhood around the church began to change. But God had different ideas for the church. Over time several member families felt called to rehabilitate abandoned houses in the neighborhood and move there.

Now several church families live right around the church, sharing in its ministries, which include a day care for low-income families, a Community Development Corporation and an online and print book review, The Englewood Review of Books. Englewood is also a church that shows great hospitality. During each of the last several years they have hosted one or two conferences on topics ranging from immigration to the new monasticism. Two conferences focused on sustainable agriculture, and both did something remarkable—they served the kind of food the conference was advocating. I have been to many gatherings high on the virtues of good food, but few of them have been able to pull off the logistics of serving locally grown food that was raised while caring for the Earth.

The task of serving local food wasn’t an easy one for Englewood, but they did it by planning ahead, growing vegetables in the church’s community garden, and canning and freezing produce for the fall conference. Several church members also keep chickens in their backyards, some for meat and some for eggs, and these too served as part of the food for the conference. The food was wonderful, and we didn’t have to feel guilty when lunchtime came after valuable discussions on such topics as changing the farm system or living faithfully in a time of climate change. Most significantly, the food was grown, preserved and prepared at the church or in partnerships with farmers the church members knew. Going beyond the good intentions of serving organic food grown sustainably but brought in by an outside caterer, this was food produced in and by and for the community.