“Mnemosyne Dance” is the pseudonym of a local (metro Denver) vegan activist who is looking for a church where she and her family can feel at home. I thought it would be interesting to interview her for this blog and she agreed. This “interview” was conducted partially in person but then by e-mail. Here’s what she said.
Question: “Mnemosyne,” I understand that you’re looking for a church and you’re vegan. Can you tell us what your background is?
Mnemosyne Dance: I was raised as a conservative Christian, with a Baptist and Pentecostal background. My religious beliefs sheltered me from other ideas. But in early adulthood, I started to change my worldview. In about 1990 I became active in the animal rights movement in Indianapolis. My core beliefs are in the Christian tradition, but I also support animal rights and am now vegan (past 9 years).
In 2004 I married “Thomas.” “Thomas” comes from a similar conservative religious background; he was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, and is vegetarian/mostly vegan. We have been church shopping, or church-hopping, ever since, trying to find a church that would fit with our beliefs.
Q: Could you say a bit more about what you’re looking for in a church?
MD: Ideally, I would love to find a Christian church that supports the true nature of what Christ was—compassionate, humble, kind, and loving. But it seems in our current world, there is no such entity and we have spent the last ten years of our marriage trying several different traditions. Each time we go to a new church, there is hope. But it is usually quickly dashed when we run into the whole issue of eating and food. Most churches, as you know, base their events around food and eating. It is a way to fellowship with one another and food is available at every church event you go to. So it makes it completely difficult for a vegan — particularly when you have kids who are being raised vegan. I quickly learned that I would have to ALWAYS pack snacks in my pocketbook so that I had something during fellowship time for my kids. It is very rare that there is something the kids can grab at a church function.
Q: What churches have you gone to, and what was your experience there?
MD: We went to the Mile High Church.
Q: How did it go there? I understand they have a vegetarian group there. I don’t think it’s an official group but they meet outside of the church.
MD: We only went a couple of times and I was not even aware that there was a veggie group there.
Q: What church did you try next?
MD: We then went to the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden. They had an “ethical eating task force.” I went to one of their meetings and everyone introduced themselves, and I said something like, “Hi, I’m a vegan.” The next person introduced themselves and said “I don’t want anything to do with veganism.” The moderator made no attempt to soften this comment, and so that was the end of my experience with this church. Their idea of “ethical eating” seems to be mostly grass-fed beef and eating locally, but nothing about how animals are actually raised.
We then went to Green Mountain Methodist church, but it didn’t work out either. It was the same routine—packing food for the kids so that they have a snack in their Sunday school.
Q: Do you want to say anything more about this Methodist church?
MD: I loved the minister and her messages were powerful. We limited our time attending “fellowships” because of the entire food issue. Adults are able to go to fellowship and choose not to eat–that is easy for “Thomas” and me. But when you take kids into a place where food is being served, they ALWAYS want to eat. They have no discipline and so I would always have to have food stashed to provide for them.
Q: And after that?
MD: We tried a United Church of Christ in Lakewood. We liked a lot of what they were for. They were liberal, progressive, and backed gay rights, but were not as liberal as the Unitarians on the environment. They had a Bible school for kids, but they never accommodated our kids’ diet. They had a showing of “Food, Inc.”, but in the discussion afterwards there was no discussion of vegetarianism or veganism. We could see the writing on the wall and left that church as well.
Q: After the discussion of “Food, Inc.,” what did the other church members seem to be most interested in?
MD: They were mostly concerned about GMOs and Monsanto after viewing the film.
Q: In what way did this church not accommodate your kids’ diet?
MD: Even though the youth minister knew we were vegan, they never provided vegan options in Sunday school or during fellowship times (or during Vacation Bible School, for that matter. “Thomas” and I gave a substantial donation to support the vacation bible school, but no attempt to accommodate our family’s veganism was made. It was disappointing because I had to provide their snacks each day of the bible school.
Q: What church are you currently going to?
MD: We are now going to the Littleton United Methodist church. They said that they would offer alternative foods at Bible School for kids this summer, but that is not until late July, so we will see. I have a feeling that I will again be providing all of my kids’ snacks. I was disappointed because my son participated in music camp and they said they would have ice cream for all the kids. They gave out ice cream with cow’s milk and handed him a freezy pop. I mean, I guess it’s better than nothing, but I would have brought him a vegan ice cream sandwich or something if I would have known their version of vegan ice cream was going to be a freezy pop. They are only “progressive” when compared to the fundamentalists. There’s no push for people to change their personal choices.
Q: Have any of the churches you’ve gone to tried to raise money for “the Heifer Project”?
MD: OH YES!! In fact, that was another big reason that we left the Jefferson Unitarian Church. Each year, their youth have a big support campaign for the Heifer Project. It was depressing to me to see it.
Q: Do you have any general comments about problems that vegans have in finding a church?
MD: Today’s churches have many people in them who will never change their ways, and unfortunately they are the source of monetary support for the church. It’s all about money, not about compassion.
I can relate to this issue, being another vegan Christian, although I have it easier as I don’t have children. I would suggest that Mnemosyne and her family might drop in on House for All Sinners and Saints, (www.houseforall.org) a Lutheran-affiliated emerging congregation that meets at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, at 22nd and Dexter. It is a lovely community, very kid-friendly, and very progressive. I can’t vouch for the snacks at the end of a service, or during Sunday School, but I’ve been to many a pot-luck and community meal there, and there seem to be enough vegans that there is always a good variety of vegan food. That would be my home congregation if I didn’t live 40 miles away! As it is, I’m just the one slightly kooky voice that raises other people’s consciousness in my own congregation. Which has been good for me, as I’ve been learning to articulate my own choice for compassionate and healthy living, in a way that will attract rather than repelling people.
Thank you for the suggestion, Janet!!! I am going to look up the location and we may give it a shot!!!
Compassionate Spirit could respond by offering a religious experience at Christmas and Easter to see if it meets a need.
For anybody in the Front Range area who wants to come to northeast Boulder County, we have a monthly contemplative worship service followed by a vegan meal, at our house in Longmont. If you’re interested, contact Keith through the blog and he can pass on my contact info.
Please contact Keith by e-mail and I will mail you the information: keith “at” compassionatespirit “dot” com. To be clear, this is a different group from the “House for All” mentioned above, so already we have two new groups to check out.
Being long time vegans, eating mainly plant based raw foods, it is sad to say I have a health ministry, trained with title, and not have a church where this lifestyle is accepted. One church I loved, and attended for a long time, preferred to fill up the seats first. Now the seats are full but no interest yet. I am still encouraged hanging with my vegan friends who get it. I’m not saying being a vegan, breeds better people, but it’s nice to be able to share the love of this lifestyle with like minds.
I really do think that you are so right about being able to fellowship with other vegans. It makes me feel so much better to know I have a safety zone. I regret that I cannot have that in my spiritual life right now, but I almost get a spiritual connection when we have meetups and other organized vegan events. Most vegans and vegetarians are some of the most pleasant people on the planet. MOST, that is!! 🙂
There is the Christian vegetarian association. They have their own leaflets that promote veganism, and are always looking for volunteers to leaflet with them. The seventh day adventists I have met are mostly vegan, but as far as can tell it seems to be for health reasons rather than for the animals.I live in the “bible belt” where there is no church I can find that supports compassionate veganism. It is also quite impossible to find one that supports anti- militarism or conscientious objection. It makes you wonder how a religion can claim to be based on the teachings of Jesus while at the same time ignoring everything he stood for.I keep some of the Christian veg. leaflets and give them to people who often come around to invite me to church. They usually have some kind of handout for me, so it’s nice to surprise them by giving them something back that they have probably never seen before..a couple of titles are”Would Jesus eat meat today?” and “Are we good stewards of God’s creation?”They are excellent little booklets that even contain some vegan recipes.
I love CVA and have supported them for many years. I also keep their leaflets handy and give them out when I find someone who might read the info! Whenever people come to my door telling me about their faith tradition, I make sure they leave my house with a CVA pamphlet!!
Mnemosyne is my niece and she is a tireless activist in veganism and animal rights. I am so proud of her. She constantly inspires me and makes me aware of issues and news concerns I have never considered. She WILL change the world and she will not even know how effective she has been. I can really see her working on a national level. You are so lucky to have her in your community. there is a little star shinning bright over Colorado and it is growing bigger. I have learned so much from her.
Hey, guys, what’s up? I just so happen to be a Unitarian Universalist….and a Progressive Christian. Mnemosyne, I’m sorry that you’ve experienced that sort of thing in a UU congregation. You shouldn’t have to, and I dearly hope you find a church home where your veganism is accepted. I’ve got a question for all you veg[etari]ans out there: How did you manage to overcome the struggles of eating meat (which is something I want to do), and all of the social pressures? I’ve tried vegetarianism before, but it didn’t work out the first time, but I’m going to try to work it out this time around. You guys got any tips? Thanx so much.
Wow, this is a huge topic. It sort of depends on the type of social pressure (family, business, dating, or whatever). In general, understand why you want to do it, how to do it, seek out support, and be patient with yourself. FARM has some good general advice here. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a talk titled “From Excuse-itarian to Vegan”; she comments on social aspects at 28:35.
If you’re local to the Denver area, check out the Denver Vegans meetup.
Awesome, Devin. Thanks for the encouragement!! For me, I think having a group of people who support my vegan lifestyle really helps me stay strong and learn new things (ie tips on where to eat, what to cook, etc). In addition, if you are a person who is averse toward violence, I recommend you check out some video footage of slaughter operations in this country and see how we raise and kill our food. It might help you every time you think of how the food got onto your plate and how the creature had to suffer through death and life just for a meal. As a working mom, I tend to rely a lot of meat analogues, but I know a lot of healthy vegans are pretty opposed to the processed stuff. I have to say that it helps me create meals quickly and so many of them out there now are completely delicious. Having a support system is uber-important, though IMO. Check out your area veg groups or veg meetups so you can make connections with others who are working toward veg. It really helps to have that extra support.
It’s been a while since you posted so you may have already made the switch to vegetarian but just in case you want tips still, I will leave a few. As one poster said it’s important to remember why you are doing it. It’s also important not to view your diet in negative terms like “I can’t have” and instead reinforce that “you choose not to have” specific foods. If you cook there is much fun to be had in experimenting and discovering new foods. I found the library and used book stores to be awesome sources for recipes and I’ve had mixed results with online recipes. There are an abundance of websites with information about switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet and there are a few Meetup groups in my area for vegetarians and vegans. When I switched to vegetarian in Oct 2013, I found my resolve was tested only in the initial weeks when I was still building new habits; I needed to find alternative fast dinners for when I ran late with work instead of the rotisserie chicken I used to pick up. Also it takes a while for our noses and brain to fully switch. Even when I had absolutely no interest in eating meat again, there was a period where it still smelled good to me. After a bit that changed as well. I encourage you to continue to learn about your food and what is in it and behind it’s production. As we learned more my son and I switched from lacto-ovo vegetarian to vegans in Aug 2014. Being vegan doesn’t mean you are denying yourself of foods, you just make them differently. I use very little of the alternative meats and none of the commercial vegan cheeses (I like what I make better) and I’ve made wonderful lasagna, enchiladas, nachos, mac and cheese, cream of mushroom soup, breads, french toast, pancakes etc. that are vegan and yummy. I hope this is helpful to you and/or another person that happens upon this site.
Have been trying to respond but tablet kept cutting me off. I totally relate. In fact, I have tried so many churches I think I inspired Christian Vegetarian Association to look into an internet church. Let me give you a list at what I have tried in order:
Episcopal Church USA
Evangelical Lutheran Church In America
Presbyterian Church USA
Centers For Spiritual Living
Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints
Seventh Day Adventist
back to Centers For Spiritual Living
Note how I went from conservative to liberal and then gave up on liberal and tried conservative again.
7 Day Adventists come closest to my dietary practices, but I agree with them on nothing else! And the synagogue just acted like they didn’t want me there!
When are we going to form the ECC (Ebionite Christian Church)? Or maybe EUC, Ebionite Universal Church? I can see it now … Father Keith presiding. 😉
Oh forgot UCC lol
My own experience in church shopping (I’m vegan and universalist Christian) is remarkably similar to most of yours. I have a fair number of other concerns and issues that are not in any way addressed or understood in the churches I’ve attended. Currently, I drop in on an Episcopal church in the neighborhood, mainly to sing a few hymns, skipping the eucharist. If a person had no concerns other than vegan, the SDAs and the Liberal Catholics (theosophical) might be the best choices here.
Keith, I’m so glad to see you’re better after your illness.
I agree with Drew’s suggestion, above. Here’s why: The reason Mnemosyne can’t find a satisfactory church to attend is because she doesn’t believe the same way the church people do. Having been raised similar to the way she was brought up, I, too, love the comfortable feeling of belonging that comes with regular church attendance at the same church. But if you are not in spiritual accord, isn’t that pointless? You have 3 choices: Go along to get along, hide who you are and what you believe(which I have sometimes done) or live in a constant state of tension and fighting. They will slap you with the writings of Paul, or Peter’s dream about the animals on the sheet. The reason Christianity is failing is the lack of moral integrity. God wants animal sacrifices in the OT, but now he doesn’t?? Where’s the sense there? If you try going to a conservative church, you will be met with people who call themselves “pro-life” and will secretly(or openly) be saying “Pro life indeed!” The way I read the Bible, I almost have to think God must have multiple personalities. I was forever twisting myself into a pretzel trying to make it all fit. Then I read what Keith has to say, and suddenly everything makes sense. So yes, if we are to have any church at all, it will probably have to be ECC
I am a foreigner to you, but I must tell you about certain webpages, which you must read necessarily! It is about a group of Christians called ebionites/nazirenes. They are all vegans, and they live in USA. This is an address of the webpage, where there is a “main index” of many pages: masterindex.nazirene.org; look there please!
Greetings from Poland,
I cannot be led by someone who shows less wisdom than I by eating meat, supporting fur farms and animal experiments. People prove their closeness to God by their spiritual eyes being able to see the atrocities happening to animals and preach against it. I had many Christians say I was sinning against God for not eating meat. Then, I decided to through out church; and kept my relationship with God!
Being told by an elders wife that I was wasting my time being vegan because The Bible is full of the killing of animals was hard enough but having to sit through a sermon on Romans 14 and having it hammered home that my faith was weak because I only ate vegetables was the last straw.
I protested to that same elder’s wife that the preaching had become too Pauline. Needless to say I have not heard back from her.
Seems like I will have to return to going it alone in my beliefs. Not easy.
I have found your book The Lost Relgion of Jesus and Dr Shmuel Asher’s book, The Asher Codex, great comforts ..