Finding Church in a Loaf of Bread

by Ellie Barta-Moran

In the lifelong quest for belief, I had finally distilled it down to three clear things: love, hope, and good works. Beautiful ideas, but sometimes a lonely trudge on my own. The idea of community has always resonated with me, from being raised in a hippie cooperative to dorm life in college to . . . what’s the next step when you’re an adult?

My idea of a community was: good people, good food, good conversation; and my interest was piqued when I saw a flyer in a café for Wicker Park Grace. It took four months of reading the weekly enotes before I mustered the courage to try.

When I first began to explore being part of a community, I wasn't sure where I'd fit in or what role I'd play. I don't consider myself to be a Christian. I wasn't sure what I ultimately sought by joining the community, or even what I could give. Really, I was drawn in by the potluck dinners. I love cooking. I even joke sometimes that cooking is my coping skill.

As I sat down to my first communion at Wicker Park Grace, and heard Nanette intone the familiar invitation to share in the Sacred Meal together, I wasn't even sure I should be (or felt comfortable) partaking. I hadn't taken communion in more than 10 years.

There were times in my life where I took communion and the bread caught in my throat; it simply felt wrong. But Nanette's inclusive welcome made me wonder, could I try this again? It felt right this time. And a month later, I started to wonder who made or brought the bread, and it became clear to me: I knew my gift—maybe even responsibility—was to provide bread for that meal. Cooking is the greatest expression of love for me.

My worship is in the preparation. It feels like a sacred act to set aside deliberate time to devote to the creation of nourishment. Knowing what ingredients: how much flour, salt, gluten; and the water: too hot, and the yeast will be killed, too cold, and the yeast won’t proof. Giving the bread full attention so it may properly rise.

When I shape the dough into the pan, I think about who and how the bread will be nourishing. I find my peace in those quiet moments of the task, and it has become a ritual over the past year since I have begun providing the bread for each communion. And I realize what I was seeking was peace, calm, purpose.

These are all feelings I had not been able to put words to until becoming part of this community. Never would I have considered finding my church in a loaf of bread.