Vancouver's Planted Network evaluates churches' current meal programs, helps them improve and trains volunteers for new programs.
A VANCOUVER ORGANIZATION is transforming how that city’s churches feed their neighbours.
The Planted Network (www.PlantedNetwork.ca) began in 2012 as an initiative of CityGate Leadership Forum, an associate ministry of City in Focus that equips Vancouver churches to respond to poverty. Planted evaluates churches’ current meal programs, helps them improve and trains volunteers for new programs.
In the spring Planted completed a comprehensive handbook, A Table for All: A Faith-Based Community Meal Toolkit, which explains the theology and philosophy of sharing meals, and includes recipes, checklists for setup and cleanup, and sample fundraising letters.
"Churches are amazing," says Karen Giesbrecht, a registered dietician and Planted’s network co-ordinator and dietician. "They have kitchens, and dishes and an understanding of what it means to offer hospitality."
Yet many churches make mistakes of giving too much food or not serving balanced meals. People who have experienced trauma or struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may feel uncomfortable eating in a large, loud group.
Giesbrecht trains churches about topics important for running effective meal programs, including sanitation, food safety, grief and mental health. Planted’s various consulting initiatives aim toward a kind of shared meals where guests also become hosts.
"It’s not an accident that a shared meal is the founding practice of the Church," says Jonathan Bird, Planted’s executive director. "In sharing food we enact the pledge to each other that we are equal before God. In the face of Jesus, one person is not better than the other."
Bird often provides church teams with demographic information about the neighbourhoods where their congregations meet so they can better understand their needs.
"If we commit to [welcoming strangers] upstairs on Sunday, what we do downstairs on Thursday evenings for the community better have the same ethic," says Bird.