Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative


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.

View the latest edition here.

  • Create courses across the curriculum emphasizing the themes of stewardship of and within Creation, and that highlight food’s pivotal place in that stewardship.
  • Equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience so that they can lead on these issues in the church and not-for-profit ministries.
  • Develop research and publications across the core areas of theological education on these themes, and generate resources for faith communities who want to learn, worship, and serve more effectively as stewards of Creation and leaders in creating food systems that embody shalom.
  • Build partnerships in worship, service, and education around food issues within the university, with the Piedmont and Western mountain regions of North Carolina, and with national and international partners.
  • Teach and cultivate the theological habit that living in peace with the land and with non-human Creation is a core pastoral practice for religious leaders and the communities with whom they serve.

Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be”): The Impact of Pope Francis’ Encyclical and Reflections on Our Common Home

Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
Kulynych Auditorium, Porter Byrum Welcome Center
Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC

Conversations about climate change are often isolated among different disciplines. Scientists use the language of analysis and data; people of faith speak of morals and ethical obligation; journalists speak of social impact. And yet climate change is no respecter of geographic borders or academic disciplines; it is an issue that affects us all. With the publication of his widely-hailed encyclical Laudato Si’ (“Praised Be”), Pope Francis has called for a holistic way of approaching climate change, one that cuts across nationality, academic discipline, or religious difference. Join us as we convene a lively panel discussion featuring three WFU faculty–a theologian, a biologist, and a journalist– whose work in the context of Latin America can help us understand the impact of Laudato Si and rethink how we share this earth, our common home.


  • Elizabeth O’Donnell Gandolfo, Earley Assistant Professor of Catholic and Latin American Studies, School of Divinity
  • Justin Catanoso, Director of the Journalism Program, Associate Professor of the Practice, Wake Forest College (see video below)
  • Miles Silman, Professor of Biology, Wake Forest College
  • Moderated by Fred Bahnson, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ecological Well-Being

Free and open to the public; registration recommended.

» RSVP Now

co-sponsored by

and the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES)

Saving Places, Savoring Graces: Exploring a Grounded Worship Spirituality

People encounter God as they live, work, and play in human communities. Worship arises from and returns to daily life in human communities. This series explores “grounded” dimensions of worship, spirituality and communal life–bread, water, and transformative power of fermentation. The series invites participants to consider anew those sacramental dimensions of everyday life experiences such as cooking, eating and drinking, playing, giving birth, rearing children, and caring for persons who are sick and dying. The series also explores connections between these daily experiences and communal worship. What we do in Christian worship is connected to everyday life. What we do in worship cultivates in us wisdom for responding with Gospel care to local and global problems such as hunger, injustice, and ecological degradation. Our worship is grounded in God’s good earth and in particular places where we live and work together. Worship can inspire us to savor God’s grace as it arises from God’s good earth, and it can challenge us to work together to sustain the life-giving dimensions of the places where we live, work, and play.

In each of these three day-long workshops held over the coming year, participants will explore a different hands-on skill with master craftspeople and conservationists: making bread, pickling vegetables, and learning about watershed restoration.

Workshop 1: Bread of Heaven, Bread of Earth

Saturday, December 5, 2015, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Asheville NC

Workshop Leaders: Jill Y. Crainshaw and David Workman

Bread-making is an ancient practice that connects people across history, cultures, and religious beliefs. This workshop explores the liturgical and spiritual significance of bread during the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Preparing, waiting, and feasting–each is connected to bread-making and each is connected to the Christian rhythms of incarnation. Participants will have a chance to learn about bread-making from a local baker. They will also consider how the bread we break at the Lord’s Table is connected to the bread we eat every day. How can Lord’s Table celebrations during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany remind worshippers of the connections between farmers, millers, and bakers? What do our remembrances of Bethlehem (“house of bread”) have to do with contemporary concerns about hunger or climate change? What Gospel wisdom do we hold in our hands for baking bread and for encrypting life-giving yeast into our daily lives and our communities?

Find Out More and Register »


Workshop 2: Fermentation and Faith

Spring 2016

“While I drink my Wittenberg beer, the Gospel runs its course and overthrows empires.”  – Martin Luther

Fermentation is a metaphor for life, death and faith. Using salt and yeast, fermentation takes perishable things (grapes, wheat, honey, vegetables) and renews and transforms them. In a bottle of stout, in a bowl of dough rising on the counter, in a crock of pickles bubbling in a cool cellar, countless microscopic lives are being born. Alchemy is doing its magic. We have much to learn about cycles of life and faith from the alchemy of fermentation (see “Sacramentals and Sauerkraut: A Meditation on Fermentation,” by Cara Angelis).

Yeast and salt are important biblical metaphors. Wine or grape juice at the Lord’s Table carries depths of meaning for those who drink and remember. This workshop invites participants to consider links between fermentation processes, worship, and spirituality.

More Information Coming Soon »


Workshop 3: From Living Water to Running Water

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Water is a powerful religious symbol. In Genesis, God’s Spirit dances over chaotic waters to stir up and give birth to the wonders of creation. Isaiah promises that God’s people will be like well-watered gardens, like springs whose waters never fail. In the New Testament, Jesus is baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, and in Revelation, a river of the water of life flows clear as crystal. But many people in the world today lack access to clean water. Water is not plentiful in all places and in some places, waters flow less abundantly than ever before. This workshop explores relationships between the waters that sustain our everyday lives and the waters of baptism. Participants will consider how a greater awareness of the sacramental dimensions of the “places” where we live and work nourishes our capacity to contribute to communal and global water health and well-being. Workshop participants will participate in a creek walk, learn about local water gifts and challenges, and imagine ways to infuse Sunday worship with what they experience and learn.

Find Out More; Registration Coming Soon »





See the initiative’s past events.

Who We Serve

Clergy, congregations, divinity studentsfaith-based non-profits, community gardenersfood activists, and any faith leader confronting community health issues caused by substandard food systems.

From the Dean

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 of the School of Divinity and Professor of New Testament and Preaching

From the 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, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative is to support, nurture, and encourage that shalom.

Fred Bahnson, Director