Mission

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Mission

Renewing theological education for the 21st century, we equip religious leaders with the knowledge, skills,
and pastoral habits necessary to guide congregations and other faith-based organizations
into creating more redemptive food systems, where God’s
shalom becomes visible for a hungry world.

From the Dean of the School of Divinity

“Food — food access, food quality, food production — is one of the defining issues of this generation. The rapid growth of local food and farm-to-table movements has sparked a creative and essential conversation that links the revitalization of rural economies, food access for urban neighborhoods, and the health and well-being of all our communities. Connecting food and faith is about our care of the earth and of one another — the core realities of our vocations as children of God. We need to be educating religious leaders who understand that caring for creation is an essential pastoral practice in working for the kingdom of God.”

Gail R. O’Day, Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching

From the Program Director

Over the past seven years, I’ve witnessed the rise of a new faith-based food movement. From congregation-supported community gardens to farmworker justice, there’s a deep desire among people of faith to reconnect with the sources of their daily bread and to those who produce it. Far from a passing trend, I believe this renewed interest in food, justice, and sustainability is driven by an even deeper hunger: the desire to see embodied what the biblical writers call shalom, that graced state of being that results from a right relationship between God, people, and the land. Our work with the Food, Health, and Ecological Well-Being Program is to support, nurture, and encourage that shalom.

Fred Bahnson, Director

Geographic Focus Area

While national in scope, our program will focus on two main geographic areas: Winston-Salem and western North Carolina. The geographic, agricultural, and religious richness of central/western North Carolina creates a living laboratory for engaging the crucial issues of food insecurity, food deserts, and the attendant health disparities that confront our region.

Community Reflections

“The food that most of us eat creates distance from our tables, distance from our farmers, and distance from our fields.  This is as much a crisis of the spirit as it is a crisis of practical insight and public resolve.  This is why future faith leaders have a vital role to play.  This distance cannot just be bridged it must be transfigured.  And this “transfiguration of distance,” according to John O’Donohue, sits at the very center of the spiritual life.”

Caleb Pusey (MDiv ’13)  

 

“Gifts and challenges associated with food systems are related to religious beliefs and communities of faith. Religious leaders today need knowledge and skills for participating in and leading conversations about food, food systems, and justice. Students who are conversant about food and faith can work with congregations to raise awareness and find solutions for broken and unjust food systems. The call to this work is at the center of the Gospel.”

Jill Crainshaw, Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology

 

“My journey as believer, minister, and scholar has led me to the conviction that the paramount challenge for the Church and for the human species is stewardship of Creation.  Issues related to food touch on almost every other issue related to that stewardship. My theological education did not adequately prepare me to lead in this area. Now that I’m one of those charged with educating religious leaders, I want to equip them with what they need.”

Mark Jensen, Teaching Professor of Pastoral Care and Pastoral Theology

 

“In the Spirituality of Food course, I found myself in the midst of countless systemic injustices, corrupted markets, and human and animal rights abuses. It was a reminder that this world is indeed a broken and messy place; though wracked with death and pain, this Earth and its inhabitants are invited daily to participate in new life with one another and with their Creator. Transitioning from classroom discussions this Spring to working in a church community garden all Summer, I’ve been able to experience the beauty, struggles, and interconnectedness of life found in a successful harvest.”

Baylee Smith (MDiv ’13)

 

“In the Spirituality of Food course, I saw that I could help restore God’s kingdom on Earth simply in the kinds of food I ate.  However, I found positive, God-honoring food choices expensive, complicated, and sometimes deceptive.  In response, my brother and I are developing a web-company called ourcluster.com that makes buying organic, grass-fed beef more affordable, simple, and transparent.  The connections I made in my Spirituality of Food Faith proved absolutely invaluable. Although I’m preparing for a life of church ministry, I have found a concrete, self-sustaining way of making a difference for God’s kingdom by giving fuel, in my own small way, to a world that is more just, sustainable, and relational.”

Skyler Daniel (MDiv ’13)

In the News

 

Student Publications