The Banquet is ‘Unchurching’ the Church Experience in Brantford — A Q&A With Emilie and Jeremiah Pacey
By Tara Buchanan
The Banquet is a Brantford church that’s doing church differently.
In fact, it’s best not to call The Banquet a “church.” Husband-and-wife pastoral team Jeremiah and Emilie Pacey are quick to point out that they’re trying to “unchurch” the church experience for people.
The Paceys refer to The Banquet as a “love-directed learning community” where everyone is welcome.
In case it doesn’t already go without saying, The Banquet is not a top-down congregation. “Guided conversations” replace sermons from the pulpit, and parishioners are free to discuss issues important to them and share their feelings in a supportive environment.
Jeremiah and Emilie recently shared their experience with The Banquet and what it’s offering the community.
Can you please tell us about The Banquet?
Emilie Pacey: We like to call The Banquet an “unchurch” with the idea of seeking to undo the harm that many churches have done. And so, we are undoing the harm, and how we undo the harm is by having guided conversations where we invite people to actually talk. So, we present ideas, or we present topics, but we just guide the conversation, and wherever the conversation goes is fine. So, if somebody has a negative opinion about something, they’re free to share that. If they have a positive opinion, they’re free to share that. But the whole idea is to rethink how church is being done.
Jeremiah Pacey: Our mission statement is that we are a “love-directed learning community.” So, we’ve put our emphasis on the idea of loving our neighbour. But in order to do that, we don’t come with the idea that we already know how to do that. We want to learn how from each other, from the community around us. How can we do that? Only by listening and understanding and learning about our city, learning about our community, learning about people and their lives.
What are some of the other ways that The Banquet is doing things differently?
Emilie: Most churches ask for money so they can operate. We don’t. Instead, we’ve sought to be as generous with whatever we have. That might be financially, if we can be, but primarily being generous with our time and with our involvement. It doesn’t always have to be about money. Money can also be a thing that really makes somebody feel belittled and unseen. Because what if they don’t have money? So, we’ve tried to take that away. If you want to give financially, we don’t say no; however, we do tell people they can give their time, their thoughts, their art. For example, they can go down to a retirement home and teach a painting class.
How is doing things differently inspiring the people who attend The Banquet? What’s happening differently because of the way that you’re doing things?
We are fully inclusive, fully affirming and allow full participation. So regardless of physical challenges, regardless of orientation, regardless of any of those restrictions that so many groups have, we are trying to find ways to fully incorporate people into what we’re doing at The Banquet.
Jeremiah: We are fully inclusive, fully affirming and allow full participation. So regardless of physical challenges, regardless of orientation, regardless of any of those restrictions that so many groups have, we are trying to find ways to fully incorporate people into what we’re doing at The Banquet. Before the pandemic, we had some nonverbal congregation members, and we were working with different groups to find ways to bring them in so they can participate, so they’re visible, not just sitting in the midst of us, but actually up front communicating in the way that can, and teaching us how to understand them. We’re excited that we’ve been able to incorporate people from different backgrounds into our leadership board, such as members of the LGBTQ community.
What are your hopes for the future?
Jeremiah: I think our greatest hope for the future is to create spaces of health and healing. And through people engaging and participating with us, we hope that will create healthy healing spaces within the community of Brantford.
How can people get involved with The Banquet?
Emilie: Right now, we are on Facebook and our page is called The Banquet, Formerly Known as Brantford Cornerstone Church. People can join the group easily and they can message me through there. Or you can e-mail us at email@example.com.
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