This article is an excerpt from Divergent Church – a deep exploration of twelve highly unusual congregations. These are divergent churches – communities of faith that are living out long-established congregational practices in startlingly unconventional ways. These communities go far beyond "church-in-a-bar."
Authors Tim Shapiro and Kara Faris describe a church phenomenon they’ve termed the divergent church, and they examine what it means to be a congregation today. This vignette highlights one congregation they explored.
The Rev. Zach Kerzee, founding pastor of Simple Church in Grafton, Massachusetts, is with a group of clergy. We the authors are present. Imagine you are too. Someone just asked Zach to describe the essence of Simple Church. Zach says:
“I call us the farm-to-table dinner church. Our practice is eating with one another, sharing community meals, and talking about the ways that eating with one another across difference builds community and family relationships across spiritual divides. We’ve also taken on bread baking as a trade, which has helped us engage with the community and financially support ourselves.”
There are many elements to this story. There is the farm-to-table value; Zach works twice a week at Potter Hill Farm. The lead farmer of Potter Hill is a generous person. Zach is allowed to harvest enough food each week to serve at the Thursday evening dinner. This means the food you eat at Simple Church is grown within walking distance of where you have gathered for worship. One more important element: Simple Church runs a subscription bread service. The congregation rents kitchen space from another church and makes and bakes their own bread. Flour. Water. Salt. Yeast. “Our bread is simple,” says Zach, “just like our church.”
The practice of bread baking developed from the congregation’s worship experience. Attendees observed that because communion is a big part of the worship service, it would be fitting to have homemade communion bread.