Rainbow Church: A Peace Feast for Everyone

Joanna Hawkes tells us about ‘Rainbow Church’, based in North London, and all the ways in which food and faith weave together in their community.

What is Rainbow Church all about?

We are a community of people based in north London. As our name suggests we have no one way of doing things, we have no split age related ‘meetings’ or clubs. We are essentially an inter-aged, inter-connected, warts and all ‘family’ (church).

We’ve never wanted to split people into groups. The traditional approach wasn’t appealing – age splits, gender specific groups, Christian ‘maturity levels’ you have to work through – we didn’t want any of that.

We also knew that the traditional approach wouldn’t work for our community. We get several asylum seekers attending our church, and for them there are huge barriers of language and culture which meant we had to do things differently.

They have so many needs we just weren’t aware of at first, such as the trauma they’ve suffered and needing to apply for papers and navigate the asylum system.

We like to break down the concept of ‘religion’, opening up the church and practicing a simpler faith, like the faith of a child. Children have such a simple faith.

We also wanted to fight against individualism – Rainbow Church is all about community and coming together.

Could you tell me about the kinds of things that you do with food and drink as a church? How does Peacemeal fit in?

Noel came to share a Peacemeal with us in October this year, and we found this fitted in so well with us. Like most families, we rumble and squabble but we are highly loyal and protective of each other.

We love eating together, we love being able to walk into a room and relax knowing everyone would rally round the minute you needed help or wanted to celebrate something. We just called it ‘eating together’ until Noel came!

Rainbow Church Peacemeal Celebration MealOne of our regular events is ‘tea and prayer’. We have all kinds of tea, we like to cater for everyone and make everyone welcome: caffeine-free, herbal teas, whatever people would like.

The best bit for the kids is that they get to have a big grown-up tea party with loads of hot chocolate in a big teapot. We also ask the kids to bake cakes to bring with them, so they’re involved in serving and contributing too.

Guests from other cultures will often bring some traditional cakes or food to our gatherings. They’re proud of contributing something and proud to share their culture with us – it’s a great way to learn about each other.

What do you think is so special about Peacemeal, and sharing food together in general?

Our church meets in a school, so a table provides a central point for us all to gather round. We make a big table with something interesting in the middle to look at.

I think a meal is more inclusive – the table means we’re all facing each other as equals. People can participate as much or as little as they want to – you can hide your hands under the table, or look at the centre of the table or the food – there’s less pressure to look directly at each other.

Rainbow Church Peacemeeal London CelebrationThe table also brought us together as one big family to enjoy something universal – a good meal! Everybody gets an opportunity to speak and share, enjoy each other’s company and learn from each other.

It’s like a big Sunday dinner really; there’s something so special about bringing all the different age groups together.

When Noel came to share Peacemeal with us, it was lovely to have him come and use the Peacemeal to highlight the love we have for each other; to have that precious time to remember and celebrate where the source of our love flows from.

Yet again, as a community, we were reminded of all the gifts we have been given.

How do you incorporate spirituality into your meals? Do you use specific prayers or discussion topics?

We try to let natural talking points arise from the meal itself. Food gives you something to talk about and when you’re serving each other, that gets you talking too.

We have had themes for each meal. Once, friends from Kenya came to speak about their orphanage out there. Sometimes we pick a confusing or difficult passage of the Bible and just thrown it out there for people to discuss. It’s not about someone speaking from the front and doing a sermon!

Prayer is also a part of our time together, and we’ll have a simple prayer theme such as ‘children’ or ‘cities’. People’s lives are complicated enough – we try to keep it very simple.

I don’t think that our ‘church time’ is just restricted to a set time for ‘spiritual’ things – it begins when we walk through the door, or even before.

In terms of leaders, we try not to have any, but sometimes an adult will take over or guide our time together. We try not to have the same roles each time, but all pitch in as and when we can – there’s no tea and coffee rota!

It’s been really good to just keep it simple, and keep it real.

More about Rainbow Church

If you want to find out more about Rainbow Church, visit their Facebook page or the Rainbow News website.

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