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Gathering at the Virtual Table
  By Emily Hill, Education Program Coordinator, Canadian Ministries
“Be with us as we gather, Lord, make us one though we are scattered. Fill our hunger for communion, meet us in this loneliness.”
The opening prayer in Edible Theol- ogy’s dinner church liturgy reflects the hunger most people have felt for communion over the past year and a half. The prayer also reminds us that God has been with us, and has been making us one, even though we have been physically distant.
This important reminder is at the heart of the resources that Kendall Vanderslice, the creator of Edible Theology, has made during the pan- demic. Vanderslice—a professional- ly-trained baker and theologian with a master’s degree from Duke Divinity School—has spent her career ex- ploring the intersection of food and spiritual formation. The table as a physical space of gathering has al- ways been central to her work. The pandemic required that she reimag- ine what it means for Christians to come to the table together.
“I believe that Jesus was serious when he told us to eat in remem- brance of me,” Vanderslice ex- plained. “Whether or not the church is celebrating the sacramental meal at this time, the table is still a pow- erful means of experiencing God’s presence as we feast.” With this in mind, Vanderslice started making liturgies for people gathering to eat together online.
In June, Presbyterians from across Canada found out what a powerful experience it is to gather around a virtual table when Vanderslice came to teach those in Cyclical PCC (a church-planting support initiative)
Cyclical PCC and Evangelism Network members from across Canada joined together online in June.
and The Presbyterian Church in Can- ada’s Evangelism Network about din- ner church. We were given simple in- structions: show up on the Zoom call with our dinner and some bread. The dinner liturgy followed a traditional pattern of welcome, opening prayer, scripture readings, sermon, break- ing bread, closing prayer and ben- ediction. At the time when we would normally have communion, we were invited to break bread together and eat our dinners.
Vanderslice suggested that when we host virtual dinner church with our own communities, we should use the time when we are breaking bread together to share updates and pray for one another. She explained, “Since you cannot physically pass bread to one another, you can use
this time for the pastor or service leader to pray a simple blessing over each individual, for each person to offer an update about how they are doing, or, if your group is too large to address each individual, for the lead- er to pray a blessing over the group as a whole.” While it may seem time consuming to pray a blessing over everyone by name, Vanderslice em- phasized its importance: “It is quite a meaningful time for everyone gath-
ered—a reminder that each person is seen, known and valued beyond be- ing a floating face on a screen.”
The vir tual dinner church gather- ing was, indeed, a meaningful time for those of us who gathered. One participant put it well when he said, “As church leaders, we are so of- ten the ones planning services and events for others. It was a blessing to come and be fed spiritually.” We left the virtual dinner church gath-
ering feeling full in more ways than one and with new tools for explor- ing food and faith formation with our own communities.
If you would like to discuss how to host a dinner church event, please contact Canadian Ministries at For more information about Kend- all Vanderslice’s resources, please visit the Edible Theology website at
  CELEBRATE God a church a women
National Presbyterian Women’s Gathering
May 21–22, 2022 Richmond Hill, Ontario

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