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Thursday, April 9, 2020

From the Same Source | Margaret Somerville

This spring, Interfaith Philadelphia is sharing stories and recipes from across the region. Today's post about sourdough bread comes from Rev. Margaret Somerville. Do you have a recipe or a story you'd like to share? Email Liz Royer at

I started to get anxious when there was no yeast left on the grocery store shelves. I had been to three stores. Sharing my panic that I would not be able to bake fresh bread in isolation, I received a message from a friend who had a sourdough starter. I could pick up a jar from her mailbox when she divided her starter the next day.

Kneading the bread dough is one of my spiritual practices, learned from a Jewish friend, who kneads her prayers into her challah. Into my first sourdough loaf, I kneaded gratitude for my friend who shared her starter, for the connection, for my children quarantined with me who would share this loaf, for my children quarantined in their own home, for those with whom I could not share this loaf today but with whom I would connect in the new world of virtual classrooms and worship services. The loaf rose with my concern for those without bread that day, for those without connection.

One of the youth in my congregation has become a baker as well. I offered to share my starter with her, and her mom drove her over to pick up the jar from my mailbox. And then the idea - what if we passed this starter around our congregation, leaving it on doorsteps, leaving baked loaves for those who don’t feel comfortable baking it themselves? Could we strengthen our connection by sharing of the same bread?

As Holy Week approaches, I am facing the loss of the familiar setting of my favorite service of the church year, Maundy Thursday. This is a service that is literally about communion with others, the celebration of the last supper of Jesus, when he broke bread at table with his disciples, in preparation for passing his ministry onto them, that they would find ways to connect with people the way he had.

What will it be like to celebrate by breaking bread at the table when the table is not there, when we can’t pass the loaf to one another? But perhaps with our shared sourdough starter, what we can do is eat of the same bread. Our loaves in our individual homes will have come from the same source. And perhaps as we daily divide our starters in our own homes and leave them in jars, in mailboxes, and on doorsteps, this bread will be shared from congregation to congregation as well, from one faith tradition to another. Perhaps this sourdough starter will be a reminder that we are all fed from the same source.

We do this is remembrance of one who came in the name of love and light to honor all those who have been created from the same source of love and light.

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