Is there anything more communal than the breaking of bread, the sharing of a meal? Jesus understood this. The church in the Book of Acts seems to have gotten the memo as well. Every small-town pastor knows that the "tie that binds" is as much about shared potluck dinners as it is about shared woes. It is more certain than even death and taxes: Everybody's got to eat.
The good folks at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities seem to understand this as well. The Sun Focus, a local paper that serves Minneapolis's northwest burbs, recently reported on the school's plans to build a community bread oven. For those who don't know, a wood-fired brick oven is the only way to make amazing bread — the kind with a crisp, flavorful crust and soft innards.
A bread oven, however, is no small DIY project. It is a very big DIY project. A casual baker can hardly justify the amount of time and effort that would go into building a quality oven just to bake a loaf or two a week. Community bread ovens allow bakers to pool their resources.
The school anticipates that the oven will be used for various events, from community pizza nights (bread ovens are excellent for pizza) to private parties. There are also plans to offer baking classes.
My experience tells me that seminaries are generally very generous with their neighbors. They open their property for soccer fields and day care centers. Their campuses feature trails for local walkers. Depending on how the seminary community responds to the bread oven, this could be something a little different. If seminary participation ends with the pouring of a foundation, then this will simply become a nice gesture to the neighbors. If students and faculty get excited by the project, on the other hand, this could be a real way to connect the school's semitransient population with the actual community. It could leave a crack in the wall that traditionally stands between seminaries and the cities and towns in which they exist.