Reclamation Bread

When I ended my previous ministry, I took up the spiritual practice of baking bread. It wasn’t entirely new to me; I had made bread plenty of times before. This time, though, I had a strong sense that the Spirit was inviting me to experience something new as I transitioned out of old rhythms and into new ways of being and doing.

Figuring out why baking bread seemed to be meaningful was no spiritual conundrum.

A Forced Slowness

I left a large platform ministry to plant a missional community, Gather Tacoma. Baking bread was a reminder that the smallest of things – just a little yeast – can create profound results.

I left an overly busy schedule where excellence was celebrated and stamina was what you prayed for. Baking bread slows you down and requires you to attend to it in periodic intervals, which means you can’t go out and do other stuff for too long.

I had experienced enough “success” in ministry to have high expectations of what I could produce. Baking bread is a humbling reminder that not everything turns out the way you thought it would; everything from flour quality to a rainy day can affect the outcome of your bread.

"Baking bread is a humbling reminder that not everything turns out the way you thought it would; everything from flour quality to a rainy day can affect the outcome of your bread." ~ Taeler Morgan Click To Tweet

Faithfulness As a Practice

Every few days I donned my apron, emptied the flour onto the counter, and made the dough, meditating on what I felt the Spirit speaking to me: my community is small and this work is very slow; so is bread. But, in the end, it is a delicious gift to share with others.

Just be faithful to make the bread.

I want to pour all my energy into making this new ministry grow but I must wait patiently for things to ferment and rise.

Just be faithful to make the bread.

I am being faithful and things go wrong and are out of my control. I punch the dough down and wait for the 2nd rise or try again with a new batch.

Just be faithful to make the bread.

Time to Prove

As Gather matured, bread remained a meaningful part of this new worshipping community. We started a monthly bread club that brought together people from every walk of life and we baked and ate together: Christian, Hindu, Jew, Agnostic, Atheist.

Each week the core community met for dinner and worship. We’d had a hard time figuring out our rhythm of communion together. It always felt a little clunky and overly formal. But at one meal I stood back and watched as everyone arrived and crowded around the kitchen island to grab a piece of bread and smother it in butter or cheese. Kids darted in and out, snagging what they could. As I watched this unfold, I felt the Spirit say, “taste and see that the Lord is good!” With that encouragement from the Spirit our leadership team envisioned a way to use that space around the island to invite people into a joyful communion that felt sacred and free.

The Need to Adapt

Three years after starting Gather the pandemic hit. This burgeoning worshipping community that spoke to people who wanted deeper connection and prized gathering around a meal was booted to Zoom. We tried so many creative ways to pivot in the first year. I was so grateful for the flexible nature of our community and people’s willingness to try and try again. Like many others, we did online Kahoots game nights, virtual Chopped cooking competitions, we gathered with other small, missional communities for Advent on Zoom, and when the weather was nice enough, we met socially-distanced, outside.

Our community changed.

"Folks I didn’t expect to see leave, left, some without even saying goodbye. There was pain in that." ~ Taeler Morgan Click To Tweet

Folks I didn’t expect to see leave, left, some without even saying goodbye. There was pain in that. Much to my surprise, new folks came. As we were able to be outside, we developed new ways of being together. Knowing how many people were experiencing severe isolation and loneliness, we started something called Surprise Adventure Saturday (SAS!) where people invited friends to show up at a secret location for a surprise adventure. People have loved it and the spontaneity and joy of that group continues to be a gift in a world plagued with loneliness.

Eventually, when we were able to meet inside again, we moved Gather to the fellowship hall of a local church that we partner in ministry with. We began having shared meals and worship again, and we reoriented around providing a monthly community meal.

Reclaiming What’s Left

Recently, at one such meal, I made a giant loaf of bread and at the end of the night there was some leftover. It gave me pause as I remembered a time in our community’s life when there was never any bread left behind. I wrapped it up and took it home.

It sat there a day or two, reminding me of what wasn’t anymore, when suddenly I remembered something. There is this fascinating process in which bakers take the stale, leftover bits of bread, tear it up and cover it with boiling water, then mash it into a porridge that they use as a base from which to start the next loaf of bread. One author calls this reclamation bread because it gives “you the chance to reclaim what was no longer serving you and turn it into something warm and wholesome.”[1] What was left behind or discarded is reclaimed. This reclaimed bread provides depth and flavor for the new loaf.

Reclamation bread. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. After 5 years the Spirit is still using bread to teach me about faithfulness and patience and perseverance. I suppose it’s either a rich metaphor or a dense baker!

Hope For Every Loaf

The pandemic forced permanent change for many of us. My community will never be the same. Many people have emerged from the thick of the pandemic having to be painfully honest about what is leftover.

What is left of the vision? How do we process the grief and loss we’ve experienced? What remains of the mission we were on together? Who is left to re-shape it and carry it forward?

These questions have been painful at times but in this reclamation bread I’m reminded that there is no waste in God’s economy. And I find myself returning to the slow and patient work of asking “what is no longer serving us as a community? How can it be reformed into something sustaining and life-giving?” I don’t have the answer to that question.

It is entirely possible that Gather, like so many other small communities, will not exist a year from now. But in the meantime, I move forward with the same hope for my community that I have for every loaf of bread I make: the hope that everything Jesus had to say about yeast and salt is true, and all I’m asked to do is stay faithful to making the bread.

[1] Stevens, Jessica Lewis. Taproot Magazine: “Pan Loaves From the Homestead”. P 37

About the Author

Taeler Morgan


Taeler Morgan is the pastor of Gather Tacoma, a church planting coach, and co-host of the Women Planters Connection. Taeler, her husband Tim, and their 2 kids love hanging out in their neighborhood, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and finding adventure in the ordinary!

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