Generosity Dinners, USA

About Generosity Dinners

Generosity dinners is an idea started by Common Change, an organisation based in California, USA. These dinners are gatherings of friends or community members over a meal. Guests contribute financially to a group pot and provide gifts with no strings attached to people, projects, or organizations they care about.

The story below demonstrates how the Generosity Dinner can transform people’s lives and relationships. It comes from Austin, Texas – see the Generosity Dinners Austin Facebook page for more information.

On Family, Generosity and Vulnerability: a personal story

As I sat at the generosity dinner on a Tuesday night in November, I reflected on the people I knew who might benefit from a financial gift from my community. I thought critically about my friends and co-workers, trying to decipher recent conversations to determine if any of them had hinted at needing some extra cash to pay medical bills, not knowing where they would get the money.

As I contemplated, one person kept coming to mind: my sister. She is a single mother with an adorable son. She’s an incredibly resilient and determined person. And I’d like to think I share some of her qualities. But there’s one way we are not similar in the least, and that’s sharing our emotions.

I’m an open book – I share nearly everything with my family and friends. But my sister is much more hesitant to share with those around her. So, I was very surprised to be visiting her and my nephew a few months ago, when she divulged that she felt overwhelmed with the task of keeping the household running.

Her to-do list included repairing their fence, purchasing and installing a new dishwasher and repairing the lawnmower. As she rattled the list off, I was a bit shocked, and I wasn’t sure how to respond. It was so unlike my sister to be open about this kind of thing that I didn’t even recognize the opportunity to help her.

Generosity Dinners Peacemeal Creativity

It’s a weird thing when you realise your family is in need. Here was this person whom I love and care about, but it had taken me so long to see that they could use a helping hand. All this time I’d been “trying to find someone” for my community to honour and bless in whatever way we can.

My sister and I had never created a place where we could be open and honest with each other about the struggles we are facing. Like so many other relationships, we unconsciously made a mutual contract to never explore those places of perceived weaknesses, fears, or vulnerability.

The unspoken agreement to never discuss money is so prevalent in our society that it seems vulgar to divulge things like your rent payments, student loan amount, or salary. We hide our needs and struggles, then feel ashamed when we do need financial help – even though we may be part of a community that is willing to lift us up in support.

At the generosity dinner that night, I mentioned that my sister could use a financial gift to help pay for the ever-growing list of repairs and replacements needed around her home. My community voted and decided to help fund her.

I was so grateful that my friends wanted to help me support my sister – but I was nervous about how she would take the news, because we hadn’t openly discussed her needs before. Would she feel like I was disloyal by telling others of her situation? Would she be upset because it felt like I didn’t think she was strong enough to do it on her own?

I wanted her to see that this was done out of love for her and my nephew. That it wasn’t charity and it wasn’t pity, but it was our way of being generous. It was my way of helping her the best that I knew how.

I told my sister over the phone and she cried. There are very few times I can recall my sister crying. It touched me in a way that I hadn’t imagined it would and showed me a side of my sister I don’t think I’ve ever seen. She thanked me and she thanked the community.

But honestly, I am thankful to her. I am thankful she broke through that unspoken agreement that we couldn’t be vulnerable with each other.

Thanks to Wendi Wilkes for this story. All pictures taken from the Generosity Dinners: Austin Facebook page.

Bristol Peace Church: Thoughts on the Peacemeal

Bristol Peace Church meets most weeks, in the homes of the members, for the sharing of news, prayer and bible study; often using a liturgy to frame the meeting. The evening always ends with a meal, which is usually prepared by the host(s) but is sometimes a bring-and share meal – and occasionally even a take-away.

We have eight members, which enables us to sit around a table for the meal. This is an important aspect of the meal, reminding us of Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper. The physical act of sitting around a table and eating together also signifies the fact that we are at peace with each other.

The shared meal is seen as a Peace Meal. It is a time of listening and talking and sometimes of comfortable and comforting silence. There are times of being serious mixed with times of frivolity! We see this as a sign of a community that respects, values and cherishes each person, providing nourishment both physically and spiritually.

We usually break bread and share wine at the end of the meal, often using words from a liturgy. Words that we find particularly meaningful are from the Didache:

‘Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains and then was gathered together and became one, so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom’.

We see the Peace Meal as a time that contributes to the gathering of that church. The Peace Meal is also seen as a continuation of a long tradition, the gathering of believers around a table, starting with the Last Supper and continuing today in so many ways, through family and community meals.


The Didache eucharist liturgy quoted in this story is available for you to read, download and use for free on our Liturgies page.

Christian Climate Action: ‘Art Not Oil’ Agape Meal

Thanks to Ruth Jarman of CCA and Fr Martin Newell for this story. Photographs used with permission from the Christian Climate Action Facebook page.

On Sunday 13th September 2015, a ‘festival of protest’ took place at the British Museum. The day involved a series of demonstrations to protest BP sponsoring the museum, which displays the BP logo prominently and receives 1% of its budget from the company.

Activists commonly complain that by associating with such an entity as BP, the British Museum’s good name is tarnished, and the museum is on the wrong side of history regarding sponsorship from oil companies.

Christian Climate Action Agape MealAs Christian Climate Action, we were invited to take part. However, as Christians, we felt that oil companies are not the only principalities and powers to be resisted. Therefore, we wanted to not only ask the British Museum to withdraw from its relationship with BP, but to also reconsider the narrative it is propagating.

The British Museum is itself a questionable institution; in the business of normalising the British imperial outlook, celebrating and entrenching our inglorious past.

To remove BP from the British Museum in the hope of furthering the kingdom of heaven on earth, would be like plucking an apple from an apple tree to rid the world of fruit.

The breaking of bread and sharing of wine, with shared liturgy, was done while occupying the museum’s cafe in the main hall. We were the first ‘act’ of the day so the museum was pretty quiet – we just sat down at a table and began.

This Agape meal seemed fitting for several reasons. Our ecumenical group of Christians all understood the common table of Christ to be antithetical to the imperial outlook promoted throughout the museum, and so our meal could serve as an embodied prophetic counter-narrative.

Christian Climate Action Agape MealIn addition, since it was done on Sunday morning, it was hoped that the meal would be recognisable to passers-by and might be understood by them. The meal we shared was an obviously Christian part of a day of creative prophetic action against evil and falsehood. It was open to anyone who wanted to join.


Supporters handed out fliers to the public, and people were curious and interested. Fr Martin Newell, who took part in the protest, commented on the meal as part of the wider ‘festival of protest’:

“I think it was effective in questioning the sponsorship of the British Museum and the other institutions by BP as a massive fossil fuel company, and also in witnessing to the Christian concern about climate change and the protection of the environment generally, and our participation with the wider climate movement.”

Christian Climate Action Agape Meal

About Christian Climate Action

From the Christian Climate Action website:

“Christian Climate Action is a community of Christians supporting each other in following Jesus Christ in the face of imminent and catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, in acts of non-violent direct action.”

To find out more about CCA and how you can get involved, visit the Christian Climate Action website or their Facebook page.

The liturgy used in the ‘Art Not Oil’ Agape meal can be found on our Liturgies page.



VIDEO: Garden of Gethsemane Peacemeal

Garden of Gethsemane Peacemeal from ‘WorkTrek’ 2011

In June 2011, Noel Moules led a 14-day study tour of Palestine-Israel called ‘WorkTrek’. You can read more about ‘WorkTrek’ on the Workshop Story page (link goes to an external website).

Noel says: “‘WorkTrek’ had four aims: to experience the geography and landscape of the biblical lands; to explore key sites of historical importance; to meet people on all sides of the social and political upheavals in the Middle East and hear their stories; and to enable each member of the group to undertake a personal spiritual journey.”

“Our ‘WorkTrek’ tours always end in Jerusalem. On the penultimate day, exploring the Mount of Olives, we gathered in an olive grove just above the traditional ‘Garden of Gethsemane’ site – where Jesus is said to have prayed in the hours before his arrest for crucifixion.”

“In our much more ‘natural’ location we shared this simple ‘farewell’ Peacemeal together, which this film records.”

The video below shows the WorkTrek: Garden of Gethsemane Peace Meal from June 2011. It is 25 minutes long, beautifully filmed and edited by Simon Hildrew.

Urban Expression Eccles: Sabbath Meal

Angie Tunstall describes the weekly Sabbath meal she practices as part of her work with Urban Expression Eccles.

As a small Urban Expression (UE) team of two here in Eccles, we practice a weekly Sabbath meal each Thursday evening with those we find ourselves ‘doing life’ with.

Sometimes there are just two of us. However, sometimes all the seats around the table are filled with neighbours, family, friends, other ‘UE-ers’ or other houseguests.

Over food we share a simple liturgy introduced to us a few years ago by friends in Urban Expression Bristol. We share life (and faith for some) around the two questions:

  • What is life- giving for you at the moment?
  • What is bothering you?

As we share our table, there is always a sense of Christ in our midst; sometimes found in robust theological conversation, sometimes in being people of difference, sometimes in the week’s joys and sorrows.

One night, Christ was recognised not least in our asylum seeker guest. She shared with us food from her culture, and gave juice from her food bank parcel to a young 10 year old guest (who took great delight in lighting the central candle!)

We had no common language, no common theology, maybe not even a common faith; but we re-enacted Jesus’ table fellowship, taking bread and wine as we remembered what Jesus did and said.

Towards the end of the meal we lit individual candles and passed them on to another with words of affirmation and for some prayer.

More about Urban Expression

From the Urban Expression website:

Urban Expression is an urban mission agency that recruits, equips, deploys, and networks self-financing teams pioneering creative and relevant expressions of the Christian Church in under-churched urban neighbourhoods.

To find out more about Urban Expression and to see what is happening in your area, visit the Urban Expression website.

Images taken from the Urban Expression Facebook page.



A Neighbourhood Peacemeal

Sarah Webb shares how she and her husband Alan used Peacemeal to bring their neighbours together as a community.

Recently, I decided to use the Peacemeal idea as a basis for building community on the road where we live. Fairfield Drive is an almost oval cul-de-sac of some 130 houses.

There was already an email group up and running, which had been used primarily to pass on police neighbourhood information and also to build support from residents for a restricted parking scheme on the road.

So, I suggested to the person who runs the email group that I would like to invite anyone who wished, to come to our house for supper, and to talk about how we could do more together as a community.

It was with some trepidation that I mailed all 130 houses inviting everyone in the road to come to our house for supper and discussion. Happily, there were just 12 of us on the evening in question and I made bread and soup for the group on the hottest night of the year!

It was great to meet as a small group and see that there was enthusiasm from others to do more together and build community; it was also great for me that three or four of the group went away and planned a very successful quiz night at a local café / wine bar attended by 70 people.

Since then, Alan and I have tried another Peacemeal idea. We invited a bunch of neighbours round for tea and cake (every bit as good as soup and bread, though not vegan!) followed by Pimm’s and nibbles.

The great thing was that our ‘bottom of the garden’ neighbours brought their neighbours, and people started to meet neighbours they didn’t know and get chatting. Again, there is likely to be a spin off event organised by someone else in the summer.

Someone made the comment to me that I was good at making things happen. I don’t actually feel that way and always want to stay in my comfort zone, but I am learning that I don’t have to do it all myself. Once I do a little to get people together, they do more, and start to bring their strengths and ideas to the table.

Do you want to explore Peacemeal in your community?

Take a look at the Starting a Peacemeal page for ideas. Like Sarah and Alan, you could ‘do a little’ and start something special.


Family Reunion Peacemeal

Mac and Clare Ransom share their experiences of hosting a regular Peacemeal to reunite and celebrate their family.

We have begun to establish Peacemeal as our Friday night ‘welcome home’ meal – when our adult family gathers for a weekend, with some having travelled a fair way to be there.

We begin by sharing bread as our starter – a tasty loaf that is easily torn and shared, with butter or dips to accompany it. Someone then might say: “We like to begin our meal with bread, to remind us of Jesus, and share stories of his presence.”

We then give an opportunity for everyone to speak of a moment or a memory when they have known Jesus’ presence with them. We’ll be sharing, breaking and eating the bread while we do this, and we move naturally on to the main course as we chat.

A cup of wine is also on the table, and at some point in the meal someone might say: “Let’s share the cup as our memory of all that Jesus did for us.” Then we’ll pass the cup around to share, and one or two might reflectively give thanks.

Sometimes these moments are a minor part of the meal; other times there might be deeper things to share and dwell on, or a wider discussion is sparked off. We are welcoming Jesus into the centre of our lives: coming together intentionally brings a sense of purpose and togetherness that enriches us as a family.

We adapt what we do depending on who is around our table, to include our friends and their children at different times. Slowly we are growing a spiritual habit that is becoming our family ‘culture’ to enjoy and pass on to the next generation.

Bread Church, Liverpool

When the smell of freshly baked bread fills your nostrils, it usually means that the house is for sale, a pot of coffee is on the stove and fresh flowers are in the lounge!

Bread Church 03But in Bold Street, Liverpool at “Somewhere Else” (“SWE” – The Methodist Church in the City Centre), it means that prayer and reflection time in the “Cloud Room” is over and it is time to share a simple meal with your bread-making friends.

You will have earned your lunch because you will have been kneading, stretching and pummelling your dough over the previous 2 hours to make the best loaf you can.

How Bread Church began

When God called a group of people to bring a Methodist presence back into Liverpool’s City Centre 17 years ago, none of us knew what that would mean. But we trusted in God – and in Rev. Barbara Glasson, who felt called to do something amidst the regeneration of the City with its rising population of city dwellers.

Methodism had left the City Centre in the 1980’s and the Central Hall was sold in 1990. Many were sad to see the demise of this once great building with its memories of stirring rallies and mission work. But times had moved on within the City and there was no perceived need for a Methodist monolith.

So it was that 10 years later a small group re-established a church above “News from Nowhere” in Bold Street – with the full support of the Methodist District – with bread-making at the heart of its mission. But life has been tough; financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Here are one person’s reflections on visiting Bread Church:

Half way between the two great cathedrals facing each other across the seaport city of Liverpool, above a radical community bookshop, is Somewhere Else – better known to everyone as ‘Bread Church’.

We arrived a little late; the large room was already full of people standing at rows of long trestle tables kneading dough – children, parents, young adults and senior citizens. This morning there was also a group with learning difficulties participating, accompanied by their tutors from a local college.

Bread Church 04Warmly greeted, we put on aprons, filled a large plastic bowl with flour and began mixing our dough and talking with those around us.

Once the bread was in the oven we shared a simple liturgy together. Tables were then cleared, soup bowls set out for a nourishing meal accompanied by hot fresh bread rolls. Everyone shared the washing up and cleaning the room.

This space is home to ‘Bread Church’ every Tuesday and Thursday morning with Sunday worship once a month. It is also a spiritual sanctuary for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, survivors of abuse and homeless people from the city streets.

We left, taking our two loaves of bread, one to eat at home and the other to give away. I was reminded of the early Celtic tradition:

“Whenever you break bread make sure you take a piece of the loaf away with you to share with a stranger on the way home.”


Somewhere Else

Somewhere Else lives on the edge, as a community living and working with the marginalised of Society: caring for them, listening to them, being alongside them, praying with them, making, baking and breaking bread with them.

Bread Church 08We exist to serve God and to bring the Gospel alive in the hearts of those who have the courage to find us. For many of our community are afraid: of the church (we have worked over the years with many survivors of sexual abuse); of life in general; of authority and authority figures; of many things…

So our church does not even look like a “traditional” church – it is an upper room (very theologically sound!) above a bookshop. There are no pews, no organ, no pulpit or lectern.

Here the Word of God emerges through mixing, kneading, shaping & baking while telling stories, drinking tea & coffee and making simple soups. So every Tuesday and Thursday we share a simple meal with those who have chosen to join us for the day.

We are called to walk alongside God’s people here in Liverpool, living out a Christian faith in ways that most churches have never dreamt of.

After 17 years I still do not “know” the Church that I worship in – it is transient, extraordinary, fragile, on the edge – but very definitely filled with “companions” of Christ (from the Latin “together with bread”). Next year we “come of age” at 18 and are writing a book reflecting on our journey thus far.

So next time you are looking for something to do on a Tuesday or a Thursday at 10.30… come, be part of the experience and savour the Living Word embodied in soup with bread, cheese and jam, fruit and orange juice!

Bread Church 06

Thanks to Andrew Lovelady for this story and photographs.

If you would like to find out more about Bread Church / Somewhere Else, visit the Somewhere Else website.

Terminus Initiative Peacemeal, Sheffield

About the Terminus Initiative

Our Peacemeal has been going since March 2015 on a council estate on the southern edge of Sheffield, South Yorkshire; minutes away from Derbyshire and the Peak District National Park.

It is part of the Terminus Initiative project, a charitable company which was started in 2002 by four local churches serving in this area. It aims to develop activities that will help to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the community; working in partnership with local residents, voluntary and community agencies and statutory service providers.

Sheffield Terminus Cafe

One of the successes of the Terminus project has been its café and shop, which opens 3 days a week and offers low priced, healthy food and second hand quality goods.

It’s run by 7 teams of volunteers and when these people are not volunteering they are often among the customers.

Inevitably, a community of people has grown around the Terminus café and shop which is diverse in its make up. There are people with degrees ‘working’ alongside those with learning disabilities. There are  ‘Sheffielders born and bred’ and those who have come from far away to seek sanctuary in the city. There are those who have grown up with a faith centred on Christ, and others for whom God is still a question mark.

Company, food and Jesus stories

Our Peacemeal was set up to offer ‘company, food and Jesus stories’ on a Saturday evening from 6pm to 8pm, once a month in the lounge of the Terminus Initiative offices. It was open to volunteers and customers who come into the café-shop where it is advertised.

The format is the same each time: an hour to sit, eat and chat with each other, followed by an hour where we listen to a story being slowly read aloud twice.  Reading aloud means that we do not all have to be able to read. The story is always about Jesus or one that Jesus told. Then, after some silent personal reflection, we talk about it together.

“Equality of power is an important ethos to us.”

Each of us has the opportunity to prepare the food and choose the story and we all contribute what we can financially towards the cost of the food. There is always a leader who organises and facilitates the evening: enabling everyone to have an opportunity to participate, encouraging the reticent and curbing the dominant. Equality of power is an important ethos to us.

Something else important to us is that we engage with the Jesus stories imaginatively using an Ignatian model. This means that we place ourselves in the story and become aware of how we feel and what we think about the events, the people involved, what is said etc.

This helps us move beyond an intellectual approach and allows us to focus on connecting our own lives with these ancient stories, and creating space for sharing our stories with one another. Focussing the talk time on our different reactions means that we learn a range of ‘truths’ and perspectives from one another, and allow each person to have their own journey with Jesus.

Thanks to Aglaia Barraclough for this story. If you would like to find out more about the Sheffield Peacemeal or the Terminus Initiative, you can email Aglaia.


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.

Table Talk and the Journey of Faith

Tim Evans describes his experience of ‘Table Talk’ and how it has impacted his faith.

It’s impossible for to talk about the impact of table talk on me, without describing my own journey of faith. As with all stories, I hope it finds resonance with you even though each story is unique.

I became an Christian at University in quite a traditional ‘encounter with Jesus’ kind of way. I didn’t initially have the theology but I knew something had changed. I was shaped by attending charismatic evangelical churches, for which I will always be grateful in ‘getting me going.’ I am still shaped not only by those experiences, but by the notion that it is possible to encounter and be shaped and changed by God.

None of what I’m going on to say should be taken as a slight on my evangelical friends, nor do I believe we inhabit a different faith. It’s just that my journey has taken me in a different direction in some differing understandings of faith, life, God and the world.

In my passionate Christianity I ended up working for an evangelical mission agency and that’s where things began to unwind. I found myself studying the Evangelical Alliance Statement of Faith I had been asked to sign, which started a journey of emotional, spiritual and intellectual searching.

I had never really asked myself the hard questions about my faith before, but found at head, heart and gut level that I didn’t really make sense of my encounter with God in the way that statement set out, to the point where I wasn’t sure I believed in God at all.

My encounter with Table Talk was at such a crucial point on my journey, that its hard to say where I would be today without it. I had intellectually read about Stages of Faith by authors such as James Fowler, John Westerhoff and Scott Peck. So, somewhere in me was a sense that even though it was really painful, and others might see me as ‘backsliding’, that sticking with things rather than giving up was moving in a positive direction.

Alan Jamieson wrote a great little book called ‘A Churchless Faith‘ all about the need to create spaces for people at all stages of faith wrestling with issues of life, faith, theology… Table Talk was just that for me. At one level a simple concept. Food together, someone opening up a subject, a facilitated open conversation.

Nothing seen as heresy, no question too stupid, the hearing of perspectives from fellow travellers rather than just ‘experts’, the dynamic of eating together rather than a classroom, lecture hall, support group. I loved it!

In the group I was really difficult. I was in a painful place where much of what I had built my life on for the previous 10 years I felt was crumbling around me. I had the questions many have; hell, an inerrant Bible, violent atonement, beautiful people of other faiths.

I am the kind of person who learns by debating and arguing things, even if that means ending up in a different place from where I started. But gradually – emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – I began to not just heal but to find some theological tools, frameworks, and understandings which enabled me to stay being a follower of Jesus.

I came to understand that at the root of it all wasn’t whether I believed in God, or whether Jesus was worth following, but the perception of God the theological tradition I had been nurtured in had given me and which I had assimilated.

Not only did the change in understanding impact me personally, but the framework of thinking and values so excited me, that for the past 14 years I have been CEO of an organisation built on those things I grappled with and learnt though the 5 years or so of being a regular at Table Talks.

All this has helped me try and be there for others who’ve been on a similar journey. I have an enormous debt of gratitude to that group of fellow Table Talkers who allowed a struggling, emotional, angsty person to explore how his faith and life might be put back together.

‘A Little Child Will Lead Us’: Greenbelt Children’s Communion

The Festival Communion service at Greenbelt 2016 was led from start to finish by children. They wanted to make a space where it was possible for children to lead and teach everyone. A service led by children, and as much as was practical led from a child’s perspective, where everyone worships God together from that viewpoint. Andrew Graystone, who wrote the liturgy for this service and was key in drawing everything together, says:

GB Children's Peacemeal 03“Jesus gives children a special role in calling-out both the church and the culture. God uses children to disciple adults by helping them to look at themselves honestly, and especially by teaching them to laugh, love, play and discern. If anywhere can reflect this, it is Greenbelt.

The particular gifts that children bring to God’s people are needed now more than ever. Children can encourage and inspire us to recover a sense of joy, playfulness and hope that we so much need”.

As everyone gathered the children were invited to come forward and share their best jokes. These concluded with, “Knock knock, who’s there?” “Justin Welby.” “Justin Welby who?” “Justin Welby here to share communion with us this morning!”

GB Children's Peacemeal 01

The ‘Call to Worship’ was to God, ‘Who made cows moo and set snakes hissing’. ‘Who invented hugs and kissing’ (among many ideas), with the response, ‘All the world, give God praises’. The ‘Confession’ was a reminder and recognition that it is our sins that are destroying the world; nevertheless, ‘We are the people God loves’. ‘The Peace’ was shared by everyone joyfully ‘high-fiving’ each other.

The Scripture readings were Isaiah’s vision of creation at peace (11:1-6) and Matthew’s account of Jesus telling people they were like kids squabbling over refusing to play weddings or funerals (11:16-19); clearly and movingly read by a counterpoint of children’s voices.

29212074961_b6058c29f4_oThe song, “One Day” was a highlight with its joyful call-and-response refrain, not only for its humorous yet powerful vision of peace where the wrongs of the world are turned joyfully up side down, but the refrain between each verse very loudly supported by the sound of some 2,000 kazoos!

The Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that his “sermon” would take the form of answering questions posed by children.

Their mature and searching questions ranged from, “Why are you the archbishop?” to reflections on the scripture readings, “Who would Jesus be angry at today?” to the delightful, “Who would win a fight between you and the Pope?”.

Justin Welby responded to these questions brilliantly, claiming to be Archbishop because he’s got a big hat, suggesting that Jesus would get angry at church leaders, and saying the Pope would win because he had a bigger hat!

29222970451_57230c25c6_oThe prayers were shaped around the fingers of our hands. Our thumb is closest to us, so we pray for our family and friends. Our first finger is used for pointing so we pray for those who teach us in churches, schools and those who heal us in hospitals.

The middle finger is longest so it reminds us to pray for those who are in power over us and who have to make difficult decisions. Our fourth finger is our weakest so we pray for those who are hungry, sick and who are struggling in life. Our smallest finger reminds us to pray for ourselves and ask God to make us more like Jesus.

The words of the ‘Communion’ itself were called by different children’s voices with everyone responding, it also included a simple song of reflection sung in parts (to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’).

The ‘Offering’ included a collection of Lego bricks that were to go to a children’s project in Soweto in South Africa. The final blessing carried the strains of the whole service, “You created the world in joy, in Jesus dying and rising you played the ultimate practical joke on Satan, and may we live in love and peace with all, until Jesus returns to deliver the punch line, and God gets the last laugh. Amen.”


This story of this Greenbelt Children-led Communion Service is told using resources from the website and the words of eyewitnesses who were there. We are especially grateful to Paul Northup (GB Creative Director), Andrew Graystone (who wrote the liturgy including some of the songs) and Nicola Hambridge (Producer) for their help and permission to use material.

All the photographs are used with permission of Greenbelt Festivals.

Read more about the Greenbelt Children’s Communion Service and the resources they used on the Greenbelt website.

If you would like to, you can listen to the full service online.

Peacemeal at the Greenbelt Communion Service

Each summer in Britain there is a huge Christian music and arts festival called ‘Greenbelt’, the centrepiece of which is a Sunday morning communion service.

© jackharrybill inspiring, wonderfully creative, but understandably restricted to a small piece of bread and sip of wine due to the many thousands of people participating.

However, over the years of attending I have endeavoured to subvert proceedings in a small way by arriving at the communion service with bags filled with large loaves of bread, piles of soft fruit, and boxes of red wine with an array of metal cups to serve it in.

At the point when we gather © jackharrybill small groups to share the bread and wine, I encourage everyone around to rip up the loaves and – along with the fruit and wine – to share it within the group and then as widely as possible among the other surrounding groups. On one occasion Rev Phil Barnard, a Baptist minister from London, got caught up in the eucharistic mayhem we were creating. He later reflected:

Large loaves of bread, fresh fruit and a wine box, no less, were being passed around us: ‘have more’ being the refrain. Any sense of unfamiliarity or even guilty irreverence soon dissolved into joyous liberation.”

28677831583_ccfba11b0b_oPhil went on to say:

“Growing up conservative evangelical, my singular experience of communion was the ubiquitous grape juice shot glasses and a tiny cube of bread. As a pastor I have always struggled with the rather stilted or artificial nature of the ‘meal’, so being invited to ‘have more’ of the bread, the fruit and the wine, of Christ’s presence in me, of fellowship was truly a wonderful experience.

The fact we didn’t all know each other yet we celebrated in abundance the unity of the body, the wholeness in knowing Christ as a group: the reality of communion became dramatic. No longer was it about ‘nip and sip’ in solemnity it was about joyous abundance, a celebration of what Christ has done for us.”


Phil and I became friends, and on a later occasion he invited me to lead an Easter Sunday Peacemeal at a unique service in south London called ‘First Sunday’.

This is a regular monthly gathering of three church congregations in that part of the city. The focus of the Peacemeal was celebrating the risen Jesus in the context of a full meal, which also of course included an abundance of bread and wine. It was a great time.


Story by Noel Moules and Phil Barnard.

Click the links to find out more about Greenbelt festival and First Sunday.

Pictures used with the permission of Greenbelt Festivals.

‘Revive’ Church, Leeds

Leigh Greenwood is Associate Pastor of Revive Church in Leeds. She joined Revive last year as part of her training for Baptist ministry and this is her Peacemeal story:

revive-meal-1I’m fairly certain Revive must be causing problems for the space time continuum in the vicinity of Leeds, because on the first Sunday of every month we demonstrate a TARDIS-like ability to fit more people than seems reasonable into somebody’s living room.

This is so that we can share a meal and practice what we call ‘sentness’: when we hear from a member of our community, then send them out into the week by saying what we see of Christ in them and praying for them.

‘Sentness’ is a really beautiful thing, and it has hugely been significant to my experience of Revive, but the food that follows it is not simply a nice little extra. Our meals are just as formative for our community; they build the relationships that make sentness possible, and frame our worship and discussion as the work of a people sharing lives and homes.

revive-meal-3I really wish I could remember exactly what he said, because it was so lovely it nearly made me do a little cry, but our minister Simon recently talked a little about the fact that our shared meals are in effect how we do communion, as we recognise the presence of God in the food and the fellowship.

A few months ago I was reflecting on the fact that I have experienced most of the sacraments recognised by the more traditional churches, and at some point in the celebrating of each of them I have experienced a moment of profound connection both to God and to those around me, and for a second it has felt like a circuit has been made complete.

Or rather, I have experienced such a moment in the celebrating of each of them except communion. For some reason, that circuit has never connected in the act of sharing bread and wine. At times I have felt close to God, and at times I have felt close to the people I have been sharing with, and they have been beautiful moments, but the two have never quite come together.

revive-meal-2And yet listening to Simon, with my baby on my knee and the smell of the food we had brought to offer one another in the air, having prayed for and been prayed for by the church that I am blessed to belong to and privileged to serve, that elusive moment came very close.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think it has something to do with the joy of our worship and the generosity of our sharing. We pray from the heart rather than an order of service, and we share a true feast rather than a token.

What we do may not look a lot like communion, but it does look a lot like community, and there is something holy in the way we share our meals and share our lives.  I don’t want to ruin it by overthinking it, but I do want to celebrate it by giving thanks for it.

About Revive Church

Revive is a Baptist church that meets in people’s homes across North Leeds, where it indulges its passions for discussion and decaf earl grey. It is sometimes described as a community of communities, with different groups overlapping to varying degrees. The bit that is perhaps most recognisably Revive happens on a Sunday, and once a month the community shares a meal together.

For more information about ‘Revive’ church in North Leeds UK and how you can make contact with them, visit the Revive Leeds website.

Thanks to Leigh Greenwood for the story and the photographs.

Ojai Church of the Wild, USA

Victoria Loorz, pastor of ‘Ojai Church of the Wild’ in southern California USA, describes it as an expression of church that participates in the evolving story of God told through sacred narratives, wilderness and our lives: church is not a building, or a set of beliefs, it is a conversation. Below, she tells us more about Church of the Wild.

‘Church of the Wild’ is a gathering for those who are allured by the call into the ‘Great Conversation‘ between all things, as a pathway to personal wholeness and social transformation.

We meet outside, on the edges of Ojai’s wilderness, because nature reflects not only glimpses of God, but mirrors an inner reality as well. This call to the edges is a call to wildness, to our True Selves, that lies beyond our domesticated, neat, safe, and secure lives.

Here is an example of the words we might use at a ‘Church of the Wild’ communion:

‘The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world’

John 6:51

Ojai Peacemeal 3The bread of our communion is not simply a symbol for the body of Jesus.  It is a symbol of the inter-connected life of the world, the Christ that binds all things together. All of it.

Sharing bread and wine is recognition of divine presence in all things: not just in the human body of Jesus, not just in the human body of certain people who profess faith, but the recognition of divine presence in all things.

In the waters that are the blood flow of life throughout our planet, nurturing the growth of the grapes and wheat in the fields; in the soil and the farmers and the pests we try to keep away from the growing plants; in the factory workers, in the bakers. In all things, the divine presence is given for the ongoing, growing, vibrant life of the world.

Today, we celebrate communion outdoors, in this little grove of oak and cottonwood trees.  Instead of bread for one another, we offer birdseed for the birds and squirrels who share our watershed with us.  Instead of wine, we share water from our limited supply in this drought, remembering that the waters connect us all on this planet to one another.  And our connection, together, completes the body of the living Christ.

In bloodOjai Peacemeal 2

Be thou blessed

In flesh

Be thou blessed

In all you choose

In all you holdOjai Peacemeal 5

In all you gather to you

Be thou blessed

In all that takes from in you

Be blessed;

In all that comes forth from you

Be blessedOjai Peacemeal 4

In all thy paths

Be thou forever blessed.

Jan Richardson


For more information about ‘Ojai Church of the Wild’ and making contact with them , visit the Church of the Wild website.

Details and photographs courtesy of Victoria Loorz.

A Passover Peacemeal

Thanks to Clare Ransom for this story.

Some years ago, we invited Noel Moules to join us and some of our friends to spend a day in our home, sharing with us his understanding of the Jewish Passover meal and his idea of Peacemeal.

We had morning and afternoon teaching and discussion sessions with a Peacemeal lunch, led by Noel, in between. This was a simple sharing meal of soup and bread, and we paused to break the bread and reflect and to share the wine and pray.dv1395027

In the evening, we shared a full Passover-inspired meal to which we also invited some neighbours. We had all the special foods including the lamb, the matzoh crackers and the bitter herbs. Again, Noel led us and we joined in the recitations, the lighting of candles and drinking of the four cups of wine.

As we shared in the ritual of the Passover meal, we learned about the depth of history and symbolism that would have been familiar to early Jesus-followers of Jewish heritage: of how the actions and the storytelling included all ages around the table; of the spare seat kept ready, and of the celebratory atmosphere that mingled with poignant memories of the past.

This experience started us and our friends on a journey of exploring breaking bread as hospitality, the welcoming of strangers and of enjoying spirituality around our table.

For me, Noel’s description of eastern ‘caravanserai’ also struck a particular chord. These were stopping places on an eastern traveller’s route, inns along the way; where travellers found welcome, safety, rest, refreshment and companionship.

passover-02In a spiritual sense, this is what the Peacemeal can be: a safe haven to be in the presence of Jesus and to share with others; to listen and be heard. To be nourished with the bread and the wine and to leave sustained for our lives in the world.


Images used with permission from the Huffington Post.

If you would like to see the ‘Jesus Haggadah’ Passover liturgy used during the meal in this story, visit the Liturgies page.


Birmingham Children’s Table Talk: Faith Friends

Noel Moules writes about a Birmingham-based Peacemeal with children at the centre.

About twelve children between the ages of 5 and 10 years old sat around an extended kitchen table. This was ‘Children’s Table-Talk’ organised by Phoebe and her friends.Her family are part of Peace Church in Birmingham UK, where ‘Table-Talks’ are a commonplace event.

These are gatherings where theological and ethical discussions take place over a meal, sometimes lasting three to four hours. Phoebe told me:

“I didn’t think it was fair, I could never join in so decided to do a kids ‘Table-Talk’ without adults joining in. They take over and it becomes only what adults’ think. It is important for us kids to grow to be totally independent in our thinking”.

Phoebe facilitated two ‘Table-Talks’: the first had the theme of ‘God’ and the second was about ‘Faith’. They have been special occasions. Before each of the three courses – everyone brought food contributions from home – one of the children would introduce their thoughts on a question like, “Who is God? What is God like? How do you believe in God?” or “What is faith? How do we use faith? How do you have faith?”

The quality of the conversation was remarkable with an innocent maturity and razor-sharp honesty. Each child listened respectfully and spoke insightfully.

On both occasions, the contribution from Avani – a Hindu friend – was a highlight. Phoebe had talked about believing in one God who was good and everywhere. Avani replied, “As a Hindu I believe in one God too, but for us in Hinduism different aspects of life are shown though different gods and goddesses. As a girl the female goddesses show me how to be strong and to have faith in my heart.”

Avani continued, “There are two goddesses that are particularly important to me. The first is Lakshmi the goddess of spiritual and material wealth; light, beauty, wisdom, fertility, generosity and courage, all the wives in the stories of Vishnu and Shiva are forms of Lakshmi. The other is Kali, the goddess associated with eternal energy, time and change, who many of us Hindus see as the mother goddess.”

And so the conversations continued between the children around the table. These children became ‘Faith Friends’. Hearing them listening respectfully and making thoughtful comments was a reminder how much every faith has in common with all other faiths – and how children really do have the maturity to engage with important spiritual questions.


Willington Court Community Garden

Willington Court: the name of a street in Lower Clapton, Hackney, NE London. This street now features an open plan, shared community garden, where 5 years ago there was no such thing.

Willington Court is about the 7th or 8th community space which I have had the privilege of being able to help make, shape or re-imagine so far. We haven’t tended to give them names as such, rather thinking that it isn’t our place to do so. Willington Court garden, as it turns out, was given a sign by some of the street’s residents.

Perhaps the first thing I might share, before delving further into the W.C. garden story, is who I mean when I say ‘we’.

‘We’ could include the official Ground Maintenance Team of the estate. It could include people for whom the street or estates are home (this is how I got involved). ‘We’ includes everyone who contributed to the design, build and ongoing upkeep.

‘We’ also includes everyone who now gardens there, enjoys the table and seats, or who picks fresh fruit as they wander by; it includes the surprised visitors, who never expect to see such a lovely thing as they round the corner. What I’m trying to recognise here is the importance of the unique relationships that many people can have, in all manner of ways, with one outdoor space.

The Willington Court garden came about something like this…

Planting the seed

I had been facilitating local urban agriculture projects for a while. Through the combined efforts of John Little (Grounds Maintenance Team) and myself, word had begun to spread that there were opportunities for people to get involved in local, healthy, outdoor projects growing veg, fruit and trees.

Through word of mouth, posters, online and face-to-face chats, people were hearing about our work. We were quite visibly doing green, outdoor things and enjoyed chatting with whoever wanted to approach us.

Peacemeal Urban Community Garden
Before Willington Court. Making a shared Community Growing area by a local Community Hall one half term.

A small group of Polish women, and one man, had joined in when we were doing free related activities for kids in nearby Nye Bevan Park. They continued to volunteer with many different tasks: harvesting flower seeds, making signage for public herb beds, moving soil. They joined us at one of the first community meals which my then-partner and I got started with the Chair of a local TRA (Tenants Residents Association).

It was during one of these sessions that they ‘popped the question’ so to speak. The question in this instance being – would we work with them to raise funds for and build a new food growing area, on the street where they lived?

The answer was yes, we would! By now, something of a pattern had formed in how we undertook our parts in these projects – not a prescription, but rather a range of options from which could be picked different aspects. We explained our position more fully to Natalia, Dagmara, Weronica and Szymon. We talked about what might be possible, when and where the project could be started and who could help. They took this information away to make decisions with their neighbours and friends.

Our Polish friends dutifully and warmly undertook the challenge of garnering views and opinions from their neighbours, in the first instance a simple yes or no. A garden or no garden? These initial chats led, as we had hoped, to a gathering of interested neighbours. Great effort was taken to ensure that no one would feel left out, pushed out or excluded.

Building the garden

We knew by now that a few things would be required, as well as the people, to do the work. High amongst these were physical resources and money –  but these being no more important than creativity, hopefulness, cheerfulness and honesty. Not forgetting prayer (the last being first in this list!)

While the residents talked, I set about aiming to secure enough funds to at least match – but hopefully exceed – their hopes and dreams for the flat grass rectangle outside their homes.  Money in this instance came through a funding application made to Groundwork East London.

Together with the Groundwork staff, a plan was formed and agreed by all – at a gathering which took place in the middle of the grass. It was probably the first time that this number of families from the street had shared this community space all together. Some expressed that it reminded them of times when their kids were young, and there had been much more mixing back in the day.

Hopes, desires and ideas all shared and worked through, practical chat intermingled with the hopes and dreams and formed a final plan. I regularly reminded everyone that, being a public space, there can be no sense of exclusive use about any community gardening project. Whilst taking ownership of a community space, we must always remember The Other and try not to exclude anyone.

Peacemeal Community Garden Urban Agriculture
Old display racking made into a bench.

The final plan included 7 raised beds for growing fruit and veg, one of them extra high to accommodate a disabled neighbour. The garden would also feature a 15ft long picnic table with matching bench, a fruit hedge, pergola with grape vines, climbers added to existing railings and a wild life habitat wall.

Building the garden involved many different people and ways of working. As we moved literally tonnes of soil, this time around we attracted a much wider network of volunteers through the Groundwork London network. The wildlife habitat wall was built in a workshop of interested people from the 3 nearest estates, and then the finishing touches were crafted by the folks who lived on Willington Court.

Willington Court today

Willington Court Garden today is, I think, a beautiful spot for people to catch some fresh air away from the busy roads. It is also a comforting and safe outdoor space for the many people too anxious to venture on to the open park, known as the Marshes.

Many stories and truths told down the years contribute to a fear of the Marshes. Willington Court Garden sits opposite, and it remains my hope that the garden will help to refresh the connections between the streets and this sadly under-explored park.

Sitting on the garden’s benches, people can look across the canal and are silently urged to consider the beauty on the opposite side.

A few weeks ago I visited the area. As I turned the corner on to Willington Court, I was delighted by the sight which met me – that of a large family of Afro-Caribbean neighbours making exuberant and enthusiastic use of the table and space. Laughter and jokes filled the air as they enjoyed an outdoor meal together.

I have it on good authority that this kind of scene takes place regularly in Willington Court garden, involving folks of all different backgrounds.  I have been delighted to have been invited to some of these local parties, by the Polish girls whose enthusiasm and heart helped to kick this garden off in the first place.

Peacemeal community garden urban agriculture
A garden I volunteered to help make, called Forever Young Garden, is on the Kingsmead Estate – a warm-up for adventures in Clapton Park.

About the Author

Rob, 42 is a Community Activist, Community Gardener, Illustrator, Writer, Project Facilitator (sometimes Manager), Wood whittler, Baker, God Dad, Uncle, Fundraiser, and Member of the Green Party. He loves being outdoors and getting his hands dirty, and likes to mix this up with amateur theological reflection and writing.

He currently works  part time as a Community Development Officer for CVS South Gloucestershire – seconded to Abbotswood Action Group.

A message from Rob:

“I am very happy to offer any thoughts, opinions or advice in support of Community led growing and green projects and such things organised by Churches – especially where they help local community and Church share space, time and resources together. I’m very open to discussing potential commissions or short term contracts for involvement in such work – or, if time allows, visiting and helping in exchange for travel costs.

Please do get in touch if you’d like, lets see what positive things we can help happen together.” Email Rob

Want to know more about community gardening?

Groundwork are ‘the community charity with a green heart’, and they provide a complete toolkit to get your project growing – visit their website and find out about creating your own community project. As well as advice, Groundwork offer grants, direct support and many existing initiatives you can get involved with.







South Birmingham Peacemeal: A Quaker Perspective

Ruth Wilde, a member of the South Birmingham Peacemeal group and attender at Selly Oak Quaker Meeting, reflects on Peacemeal as the original form of communion.

I recently began worshipping with the Society of Friends, having been Anglican for many years. There are many things about the mystical and contemplative side of both Anglo-Catholicism and Quakerism that I find quite similar; but in terms of the focus on the Eucharist, they are very different indeed.

The Quakers have never celebrated the Eucharist or any sacraments. This is partly because Quakers find that all ritual distracts and takes focus away from God. Also, Quakers believe that we are all ministers, so there is no need for a priest to preside at a communion. However, in our own way, Friends do in fact celebrate the Eucharist.

reflectionsThe writer Brent Bill says that Quaker silence is in fact our version of the Eucharist. In his book ‘Holy Silence’, he says: ‘We believe that Christ comes in a physically present way in the same way that Catholics believe that when the host is elevated it becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus. It is not just some symbol…Friends feel that way about silence.’

Since I have been going to Quaker meeting for worship, I have increasingly felt the same way about it. Having thought I would miss the physical Eucharist, I have discovered it in a new and different form.

I have also discovered another incredibly powerful form of Eucharist, in the shape of an ecumenical house group called ‘Peacemeal’. It is based on the early church agape meals and on the Last Supper itself – where Jesus did not celebrate only with bread and wine, but with bread, wine and food.

In our Peacemeal in Birmingham, up to 14 of us gather together to break bread and drink wine in the context of a shared meal, just like Jesus and the disciples would have done. We then share what we’ve been up to, what we need prayer for, and sing Taize chants or read the Bible together.

Birmingham Peacemeal Quaker Meeting HouseThe Peacemeal I am part of in South Birmingham came into being through what I would call the leading of the Spirit. All of the developments which have followed have been equally as ‘organic’ and Spirit-led: the growth, the format, the people who have found us, the once a month worship at Selly Oak Quaker Meeting House, and recently the calling to do something together for refugees.

When we moved to Birmingham, my wife and I got in touch with a few people we already knew, but other people were also directed our way through mutual contacts.  Very quickly, there were enough people to start a group!

Peacemeal has been an enormous blessing to us, and it seems that the kind of thing we’re doing is becoming more and more widespread. According to a book I’m reading at the minute called ‘The Invisible Church’ by Steve Aisthorpe, research shows that many people who are leaving institutional church are not doing so because of a loss of faith: in fact, the majority of church-leavers retain their faith, and many go on to meet in more informal contexts like house groups and Peacemeal groups.

It is evident that there is a monumental change taking place in the body of Christ. We are witnessing a great re-imagining of church post-Christendom and the most exciting thing about it is that the new form looks a lot like the first church – the early church. The changing shape of the church is not something to be worried about, it’s something to be excited about!

I’ll leave you with the wise words of Steve Aisthorpe himself: ‘The fact is the world is over Christendom…let’s recognise the increasing marginalisation of Christianity as a wake-up call to remember our roots and calling… This is a moment to rediscover the challenging and hazardous message of Jesus’ (The Invisible Church, p.29).

About South Birmingham Peacemeal group

South Birmingham’s Peacemeal group meets weekly in each other’s homes and once a month at the local Quaker Meeting House. This ecumenical group shares their faith journey together around a vegan, home cooked meal.

If you live in Birmingham, join them on the South Birmingham Peacemeal Facebook group or email Ruth to find out more.

Ruth’s story is adapted from this original blog post featured on the SCM website.

Brent Bill’s ‘Holy Silence’ (2nd edition) is published by Eerdman’s Publishing Co.

Steve Aisthorpe’s ‘The Invisible Church’ is published by Saint Andrew Press.



SPEAK: ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’ Peace Protest

As usual, the streets of London were teeming with traffic and pedestrians as our long column of protest – made up of well over 100 people – snaked its way from Westminster Cathedral Hall, quietly (but very visibly, with our banners and everyone dressed in black), towards one of the city’s busiest streets in Victoria.

Our destination was a nondescript towering office block, called ‘Kingsgate House’. Featureless it might have appeared, but insignificant it most certainly was not.

This was Monday 1st March 2010. This was the ‘SPEAK Day of Action’ outside the Defense and Security Organization (DSO) offices. The DSO is a government department that actively helps British arms manufacturers promote and sell their products worldwide: unquestionably aiding repression, harming development and fueling conflict across the globe. All of this is funded by the UK taxpayer. This simply cannot go unchallenged.

SPEAK is the international student and young adults’ network campaigning for global peace and justice. It has some 3,000 members across the UK, the rest of Europe, Kenya, Nigeria, Hong Kong and in Brazil. Our theme that day was ‘Time for Transformation’: a call to end government support of the arms trade, with our slogan: “Defend Peace: Disarm Tax”.

SPEAK Peacemeal pavement peace protest communication

We formed a deep semi-circle on the wide pavement facing the main door to ‘Kingsgate House’. At the center was placed a large cardboard replica of a tank. To one side a small group of musicians played gentle tunes with a sea-shanty feel to them. Our mood was serious but relaxed.

The centrepiece of our protest was celebrating a ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’, a communion liturgy right there on the street. Everyone in black, we began with an act of penitence naming the impact of our arms sales on the people of the earth: different voices speaking out from various places in the crowd using load-hailers. Quite an impact.

SPEAK 14We then picked up the theme of repentance. We shouted “Shalom!” at the building; we pulled out coloured clothes from our bags and put them on, then covered the cardboard tank with beautiful flowers.

All this quite naturally led to celebration. Sharing huge chunks of bread between ourselves and with passers by, followed by cups of wine, as the music gathered pace and volume and everyone began to dance!


Rob Telford, another participant on the day, reflects:

“We were highlighting the injustice of our government’s complicity in suffering caused by its arms sales around the globe, and our mustard-seed-scale demonstration in front of their offices was laden with symbolism, a glimpse of the kingdom. The bread-body of Jesus’ weakness became our strength; the wine-blood of Jesus’ despair became our joy. I remember feeling liberated from my English repression by three times shouting “Shalom!” at the towering office block. The flowers – a symbol of peace and justice – prophesied over the seeds and deeds sown within that building”.

We handed in a letter of protest to the DSO offices, then made our way to the Houses of Parliament to ask our MP’s to support the case for ending the UK’s global arms sales. The frequently used phrase, “Bread not Bombs” was beautifully exampled in our Peacemeal that day.

For more information about the SPEAK network, visit the SPEAK website.

Thanks to Gina Cox and Jo Frew for helping with background research. Photographs courtesy of Matt Walker (

You can find the liturgy used by SPEAK in their ‘Peacemeal on the Pavement’ on our Liturgies page.