When on sabbatical in Tuscany attending a bread school, former pastor Bryce Johnson baked bread in a one-hundred–year-old, wood-fired brick oven. In Europe during the 1800s and early 1900s, brick ovens were the centerpiece of village life. Once or twice a week, the community oven was fired, and villagers brought their homemade bread dough to the center of the village to bake. As they waited for the bread, villagers conversed with each other and debated politics. The bread was essential for building strong bodies, and the oven was vital to building a strong community.
Before then-pastor Bryce departed for this 2009 sabbatical, a church member said to him, “When you come back, we ought to build a brick oven on the church grounds.” And, we did.
Today, White Bear Lake United Methodist Church has a very unique pathway to build connections in both the church and the community, making this oven of brick, mortar, and fire a centerpiece for strengthening body and soul. From this experience, other organizations have built their own ovens, creating a community of community bread ovens.