For the past two and a half years I’ve been teaching evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary and consulting with the Presbytery of the James. I’ve really enjoyed this work and the opportunities and challenges it brings. As I look ahead to my final 18 months of this 4-year appointment, I find that I’m increasingly eager to put what I’ve been learning and teaching into practice myself.

The convergence of our culture’s growing disinterest in traditional forms of Christian religion and our society’s deep divisions has led me to partner with a fantastic group of co-conspirators to develop a new spiritual community called the Joyful Feast.

In a culture of increasing division and disconnection, the Joyful Feast exists to facilitate connections and relationships between all people so that we can partner with the divine in the healing of our fractured world. We are especially focused on connecting with people who are not interested in traditional forms of church but who are interested in spirituality and making a positive difference in the world.

At the intersection of food and spirituality, the Joyful Feast is an emerging network of people trying to recognize God’s presence around us and within us. In the midst of a fractured world, we do what Jesus did: we gather around common tables to share food, drink, and life with each other. We believe that good and sustainable food isn’t just for the privileged few—it’s a sacred gift intended for everyone. In all that we do, we strive to reconnect with each other, with the natural world, and with the divine.

The Joyful Feast began in the spring and summer of 2016 as a series of monthly dinner church gatherings we called “BBQ Church,” an idea I brought with me when I moved to Richmond from Chicago in 2015. After our fourth gathering we decided to put BBQ Church on hold and experiment with other activities. These experiments included a book group, celebrating communion in public spaces like breweries and a park, a daily devotion and social media photo challenge during Lent, a backyard Easter Vigil, a “theology pub” discussion group that meets in local breweries, and a partnership with a local chapter of Coming to the Table. During this time, Anna and I have also been developing a mobile food business called Redemption BBQ, which will help support and extend the mission of the Joyful Feast.

After this time of experimentation and vision casting, we are ready to expand the Joyful Feast in 2018. We are negotiating a lease for a space to serve as our base of operations. This space is essentially the shell of a former catering business that has an exhaust hood, but nothing else. We need to put together a commercial kitchen and a dining room for our gatherings and missional activities. This space will also serve as the home base for Redemption BBQ, which will provide an income stream for the Joyful Feast and opportunities to serve communities experiencing hunger and food insecurity.

To help get this space up and running, we’re seeking help through a Generosity crowdfunding campaign. The following video will help you understand who we are and what we are trying to do.

As 2017 winds down, many of this year’s retrospectives highlight why a new approach to spirituality and community is so critical. Our society is more divided than most of us have ever experienced in our lifetimes, and the need for peace, justice, and reconciliation are as great as ever. How can we come together, even with those who are very different from us, to work for the common good?

We’ve been investing time, energy, and resources into the Joyful Feast because we believe that Jesus showed us the way forward nearly two thousand years ago: gathering around tables to share food, drink, and life with friends, family, strangers, those who are marginalized, those who are reviled, those who are oppressed, and even our enemies. In a culture of polarization, balkanization, and echo chambers of likemindedness, we need to slow down, sit down, and rediscover the simplicity and sacredness of sharing life with each other.

In 2018, the Joyful Feast is committed to hosting dinner church gatherings twice a month, resourcing people to host agape feasts in their homes, meeting in local breweries for “CRAFTing Connections” theological discussions, starting a new Coming to the Table gathering to host conversations about racial reconciliation, and leveraging the Redemption BBQ trailer to start a mobile food ministry.

This is just the beginning, and we need help to make it happen. Please consider making a tax-deductible year-end gift to the Joyful Feast. Every gift, no matter the size, will make a big difference. If you aren’t in a position to donate money, please consider sharing our campaign with your networks.

2018 will be a big year for the Joyful Feast. If you believe, as we do, that the Joyful Feast represents an innovative and relevant way to follow Jesus and help heal our fractured world, we hope you’ll join us in some way.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

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