Bread of Life

Bread of Life was one of the largest Christian kitchens at the gathering during the decade of the 2000s. The inspiration for their name can be found in the verses that surround John 6:35: And Jesus said unto them, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” The last time they were seen using this name at an annual gathering was in 2011. Since then they have worked in combination with other Christian groups in kitchens with composite names. At the 2014 Utah annual gathering they were part of “Jesus Camp Bread of Life Outer Circle Co-op”.

If you went into their kitchen they never laid any heavy Jesus trip on you or tried to get you to join anything. They had some free Bibles on the counter and maybe a few pamphlets available, and if you stepped over to their bliss fire you would often hear people singing songs with religious lyrics, but if all you wanted was their food, that was something they would say is a joy to provide. You didn’t want to cuss or do any other thing you wouldn’t in a regular church, but that was not hard for any sensible person to do.

Every morning they served coffee and oatmeal and had a meeting at 10:00 (exact time) that lasted for about an hour and a half. They had a structure they set up at several gatherings. It had a top frame made of iron that had eight tubes radiating from a center, which they filled with the whittled off ends of eight logs. The other ends of the logs they set on eight upright posts, then they covered these rafters with a fitted canvas canopy. Outside railings were then lashed to the uprights and big logs are set inside for seating, giving the structure the look of a bandstand in a park. In the center was a firepit dug in the shape of a Swiss cross, and they started four small fires at each of the tips.

There were usually more young people than old sitting in that kiosk, many of them parents of preschool kids. There was a large playground area, with ropes and swings and sometimes a seesaw made out of a dead tree trunk carefully balanced on some upright pivots. Much was said about this camp being a “safe haven”. This was a place where the only drug done was caffeine; no joints or pipes were ever passed, and the few people you’d see with cigarettes would have the look of outsiders. At the meetings the brothers were advised to look out for the sisters, and the women were told they should not go out into the rest of the gathering alone. If they were not with men, the sisters should always travel at least in pairs.

A conch shell was blown, and the meeting started with all of the camp under the canopy There would be maybe 30 people there. A brother named Chuck was usually the one to get everyone’s focus and say some words to start off the service. He talked like he was an experienced pastor in Babylon, but he definitely did not stay in the pulpit. They all stood in a circle, and anybody who felt moved to speak was given the freedom to. People shouted out some prayers of petition, or words of praise for prayers answered. There were testimonials of blessings received and difficulties conquered. There were a few people with five minute sermonettes, sometimes quoting Bible verses. It was not unlike a regular heartsong circle in a main meadow.

In between the talking were intervals of music. One guitarist or more would sing songs in moderato four-four with lyrics like “God is so good to me”, with choruses that everybody joined in on with phrases that ended in long drawn out notes with undulating harmonies beneath. Accompanying them were drummers with djembes and ashikos. The drummers subdued their volume so that they played in balance with and did not drown out the guitars. The guitarist singers also varied their volume, doing many crescendos followed by sudden diminuendos, and all the drummers and other singers followed along with these changes.

The songs expressed a very affirming kind of Christianity, with no hellfire and damnation because you are a sinner. They conveyed sentiments like those that were stated in a line of hand drawn signs taped to the bottom of a serving counter, all starting with “I AM”: “your strength”, “the liberty you seek thru my spirit”, “the dispeller of all fear and doubt”, “man’s friend who sticks closer than a brother”, “the healing you seek”. This was a warm fuzzy expression of Rainbowly love quite opposed to the condemnatory Christianity many of them had experienced in their childhood churches.

After dinner in the evening, where they were not opposed to occasionally serving meat, there would be a general jam session with guitars and drums which lasted well into the night.

This kitchen recorded a video in California in 2004.

September 14th, 2016 by John Anderson