Worshipers enjoy a simple meal and fellowship together after every weekly gathering of Square Inch Community, a church plant of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.
These intentionally inclusive communal meals, known as “love feasts,” are one way the new church extends radical hospitality. Every meal is vegan. While many vegetarians don’t hesitate to consume cheese, milk, or eggs, a vegan diet is one that excludes all animal products.
The church website says, “We recognize that food is often a contentious issue. We are deciding to make our meals as inclusive as possible. Everyone can eat a bean chili, but not everyone can eat a ground beef chili.”
Nate Vanderzee joined Square Inch Community near its inception. “I eat a vegan diet and liked being in a place where I didn’t have to pick and choose what I could eat,” he said.
“Some people think of it as an exotic diet that is difficult to accommodate, but when they hear that we enjoy a simple meal of soup and bread, it doesn’t seem so hard,” said Steve DeRuiter, pastor of the church plant.
When the core group was forming, they seriously considered Romans 14 as a guide for their practices relating to food, a central part of church life. Even communion is a way to practice this radical hospitality: only gluten-free bread is used in the weekly sacrament, fresh-baked by a member that morning.
The fledgling church also celebrates children’s birthdays with homemade vegan and lactose-free ice cream, and last fall celebrated Thanksgiving with a gluten-free, nut-free, vegan feast.
While an established church might face challenges adapting their practices to offer gluten-free communion or non-meat options at potlucks, DeRuiter said, “We have an advantage because we are writing this into the story right away. We can try new things because of the small group.”