Sunday, July 08, 2012

bread making in theological Colleges? a question (3) of Principal

This continues my “As an incoming Principal, I have plenty of questions” series – questions that I ponder as I begin a new role as Principal at Uniting College. (First question, with some responses is here and here).

Here is the third question I’m asking

What might bread making add to formation? What might happen if folk – staff and students together – gathered to knead and pray “Give us this day our daily bread” on a regular basis? How might it shape how Church, Ministry, Sacraments is taught, how New Testament is studied, how ethics is considered? How practical is such an idea?

All responses welcome. Because


you got it ….

Sometimes a question, followed by a response helps one listen. Sometimes a question, followed by a response confirms an intuition. Sometimes a question, followed by a response simply reveals what the next question should be.

Posted by steve at 07:43 PM


  1. Would love to chat with u about this, perhaps while I’m not typing this out on my phone 🙂

    I’ve recently taken up sourdough baking and it’s pretty life changing, it’s slow, artistic, creative, community creating…

    And I get great bread from it too…

    And the more I play and read the more complex the bread becomes.

    McDonald’s breads apparently have up to 100 ingredients, my sourdough generally has only 5, flour, semolina (usually a mix of flours and sometimes semolina), water, starter, salt

    Comment by Darren — July 9, 2012 @ 12:10 am

  2. That’s really helpful Darren. Practically how much time does it involve on a daily basis? Can you see it working in a “distributed” College – the more we make context the priority for students, they less they are physically with us


    Comment by steve taylor — July 9, 2012 @ 12:15 am

  3. I love this question
    I love it because bread making IS a ministry – and I’ve used in alongside discipleship but never thought about it from a spiritual formation question.

    Wondering if I could get that into my PhD 🙂

    I think mixed grain is the best … bread with attitude!

    Comment by stf — July 9, 2012 @ 12:20 am

  4. There is of course a bread making church in Liverpool, UK –

    So this is now new, just in relation to community building around leadership formation I guess


    Comment by steve taylor — July 9, 2012 @ 12:24 am

  5. Dave Male talks of a community that was created around the shared experience of bread making…

    Sourdough is fun, sometimes the starter is temperamental and it’s a slow rise, sometimes it’s warmer and is quicker, I tend to make my dough (very little time) and the rest depends on the method I’m trying out, the one I’m more familiar with is rest 20mins, air kneed (about 10-15), rest (hour or so), fridge it overnight or two, rest/thaw, quick folding (2 mins max), shape (2 mins, rise (4-8 hours – I started in cold Wagga so this takes a while) bake (50 minutes)

    If I include taking the starter from the fridge the evening or morning before and feeding it I could make bread in a day of I didn’t retard it in the fridge, or it could take some time, perhaps 2 -4 days (depending on how long I’d like to retard it) but if I make enough dough I could bake once per day over those 4 days and get completely different loafs…

    I’ve read someone suggesting it’s not just the dough or starter or flour or salt that changes how bread turns out its the warmth of your hands, size of fingers, size of knuckles, hardness of your touch, gentleness of your kneeding… Have ten people with the same ingredients and get ten different loaves…

    I’m writing some reflections and tips ATM, will let u know when it’s done.

    Perhaps it’s better if u start with plain artisan style breads using fresh yeast, that would be a quicker process and still fun and natural and sensory…

    Comment by Darren — July 9, 2012 @ 1:07 am

  6. thanks Darren – re breadmaking church, yep, see comment 4 re Somewhere else. Actual link is actual church is


    Comment by steve — July 9, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  7. Hi Steve and Darren,

    Glad to join in your conversation.

    As we are fortunate enough to be training for ministry in Manchester all ministerial students take time to visit and bake bread at Somewhere Else in Liverpool. Some take longer placements there and some of us (me included) have been part of the community for a while so bread making becomes part of your own spiritual and formational DNA (if there is such a thing).

    My placement this year has been at Wesley Methodist, Chester and we also have bread making as part of our weekly work – this project is closely linked with Chester Aid for the Homeless who are in the process of a feasibility study to see if they will start a community bakery. They use the church premises – part of the coffee shop – and also pause for prayer and study during the session along the lines of Somewhere Else, but their breadmaking is in a much more public area and so invites people who drop in to come and have a go, or to come another time to make bread.

    One of the events we did at Somewhere Else last year in asociation with Faith4Change and Asylum Link in Liverpool were a series of bread making sessions looking particulary at skills which can be accessed through bread making which were transferable for other areas of life. Just thinking of my own ministerial formation I’ll throw some bullet points out which may help

    1. Bread making takes time – you can’t rush it – minimum 3 hours so it provides lots of waiting time to talk, listen, attend to each other

    2. Often there is a levelling of more conventional power structures within bread making – the starting point and the ending point is the same, so whoever takes part can produce the same amazign bread as someone who has been doing it for years, there is often a confidence building in the creative production (which is often not as obvious in essay writing!)

    3. There are lessons to be learned about facilitating and leadership alongside people which are hugely useful for ministry

    4. One of the important lessons of Somewhere Else which I will certainly take into ministry is the re-telling of the story, where we have come from, our roots, who we are, but also the need to continually remind people of how we work to a code of conduct (respect, listening valuing) which in my experience is assumed rather than spelt out in more conventional churches.

    5. One of the churches I observed for the survey for my PhD did breadmaking once a month – this practically was what they could manage but it still formed an important meeting time and learning time for this community.

    Hope these reflections are useful!

    Comment by christine dutton — July 9, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

  8. Wow, this is all very rich… I’ve been pondering this all day long… If you were to start every day of college making bread with other people, what would happen? It lead me to question: What is the most valuable asset/commodity/gift/resource in such a learning environment? And I rather think it is time… maybe even “wasting” time. Time is precious in such instituitions – for everyone. And your planning to “waste” it with God and each other. Moreover, the logistics of a sustained and frequent disipline(if you will) make this idea such a risk… the audacity! I guess in short, what we form as a priority, forms us… sure makes me wonder. Thanks Steve.

    Comment by Adrian — July 10, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

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