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First Lutheran Mixes Bible Study and Cooking Classes. Got Any Good Manna Recipes?

When Dallas' First Lutheran Church was new, a crowded schedule of community dinners and lifecycle events meant there was almost always someone in the kitchen, frying fish or frosting cakes. The flutter's mostly subsided now, as hot dog suppers and smorgasboards have been supplanted by professionally catered events.

"I've noticed that these big kitchens aren't being used any more," reports Pastor Russell Vardell.

Seeking a way to reconnect food and faith, Vardell recently introduced a four-class series combining cooking instruction and Bible study. About a dozen church members meet each Wednesday evening to tackle an ingredient culinarily and theologically. Having already dealt with bread and fish, Vardell's now readying lessons on olives and lamb.

Students in the fish class learned that the Greek word for fish is an acrostic for Christ, and that fish pairs well with Hendricks gin and tonic. Students in the bread session put their loaves in the oven at the start of class, so they could smell bread baking while they debated a passage in Leviticus.

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"How they're going to work olives, I have no idea," a receptionist laughed when I asked about the classes.

Vardell says he's planning to teach oil pressing and discuss the significance of olive trees in the Bible. He emphasizes the seminar is still in an experimentation phase.

"I might pursue it more vigorously in the fall," he says.

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