Breaking Bread Builds Community

Friday, February 7, 2020

Four girls sit around a table holding bread slices

First year residents (l-r) Grace Enns, Amy Wiens, Melody Turner, and Sydney Martens enjoy a slice of bread as students gather for Grebel’s weekly Community Supper.

Every Wednesday at 5:30pm, Grebel students, staff, and faculty gather together to share a meal called Community Supper. This tradition traces back to Grebel’s first president, J. Winfield Fretz, and began in the mid-1960s when the College was founded. In those early days, Fretz insisted on having small round tables in the dining room that sat six people because “round tables,” he explained, “rather than square tables, allow all people, whether it is two, three, four, five, or six, to face each other directly.” Fretz understood the importance of inclusive conversation in the building of community, and so he introduced Community Supper as a means of community building.

Another tradition began nearly 20 years after Fretz initiated Community Supper: the act of breaking bread together. In the early 1980s, Community Supper bread was added to the weekly meal, becoming a treasured tradition. The bread is made in the Grebel kitchen every Wednesday morning, and as its scent wafts out of the kitchen into the dining room, it builds anticipation for the meal and fellowship that will happen later that day.

“I like to think of Community Supper as Grebel’s ‘Sunday Morning’,” remarked current Grebel President Marcus Shantz. “It’s a time when the entire community gathers to hear speakers, share announcements, have good conversation, and enjoy a delicious meal.”

someone takes a slice of fresh bread from the loaf
The delicious meal includes Community Supper bread of course, and announcements are made to spread the word about upcoming opportunities and events. Speakers vary widely from week to week, and include professors from Grebel and the University of Waterloo, local and global activists, musicians, and remarkable alumni. The carefully cultivated diversity of speakers ensures that students, staff, and faculty hear from a wide variety of people throughout the year.

Good conversation is guaranteed at Community Suppers. The combination of students, staff, and faculty from a broad range of areas of study and expertise, as well as cultural and religious backgrounds, promises lively discussions around each table.

The importance of this time together has inspired Grebel’s latest renovation project—a kitchen and dining room expansion. Currently, associate students, staff, and faculty must be put on a wait list for Community Suppers due to limited space in the dining room. The expanded dining room will seat up to 300 people—a large improvement from the current capacity. This construction project will allow all Grebelites to continue Grebel’s “fill the table” tradition. Filling the table—filling all of the seats at a table before starting a new table—creates Grebel’s hallmark inclusive and welcoming environment. The expansion project has been named after this tradition: “Fill the Table: Making Space for Community.”

The smell of freshly baked bread may be what excites Grebelites for Community Supper every Wednesday, but it is the welcoming, caring community that sparks inspiring conversations and enduring connections once supper starts. 

Community Supper Bread Recipe

This recipe makes 22 very large loaves.

  • 15 tbl instant yeast
  • 35 cups warm water
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 5 cups vegetable oil
  • 10 tbl. Salt
  • Start with 98 cups of flour and keep adding more until the dough feels “right.”

Mix yeast, water, sugar, oil and salt together.  Add flour as needed to form a soft, not sticky dough.  Knead for 10 minutes until it feels “right.”
Cover and let rest until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
Punch down, and shape into loaves.
Cover and let rest until doubled.  
Bake at 350F until done, 30 minutes or so.

By Katrina Steckle