In our home, we’ve been talking about becoming vegetarians for a while now. We did it for a couple of years, but then we became pastors. In Louisiana, there was no getting away from the roast at the Sunday afternoon potluck, and so I slid back into my carnivorous ways.

But, for some health and environmental reasons, I’m thinking about it again. It would be much, much easier in the D.C. area, because there are always vegetarian options on every menu–even at the church potluck. Although, I would hate to get rid of my grill. I have a serious bond with my grill.

Are there any vegetarians out there? What has your experience been? Have you been able to handle it as a church leader? What about parents? Any advice on the kids?

11 thoughts on “Vege-pastor?

  1. I’ve been vegetarian for 10 years, including in Atlanta, Chicago, Scotland, and Egypt (places I’ve lived in those ten years). I’ve been a missionary one of those years and a pastor 2. I don’t have any trouble being vegetarian as long as I tell people the instant they invite me over for dinner, usually by saying “I’d love to come over–but I am vegetarian (though I eat cheese and eggs), so would you like me to bring something?

    I also make the announcements about potlucks so I remind people that there are vegetarians in our congregation. There are a number of vegetarian families, including between 3-5 veggie kids and 3 teens as well as a number of what I call “closet vegetarians”–older people who we don’t know about until they show up needing a veggie burger at the church picnic. We all seem to do okay! The kids have learned that “milk” and “hotdog” don’t mean the same thing to other people so they have to ask when someone offers that to them. The adults have learned to bring amazing food that wows veggie and non veggie alike, and the omnivores among us often bring veggie friendly stuff too. It’s pretty amazing, really.

    I can hook you up on facebook with one of the veggie moms of veggie kids in our congregation if you want to ask her about the whole veggie-kid thing. Plus she’s been in our church for ages so she’s probably more knowledgeable about how the church situation works. let me know if that would help you!

  2. I like the Cistercian Trappist form of vegetarianism — monks abstain from meat while at home in their monastery, but when travelling outside the monastery are permitted to eat meat, particularly if abstaining would cause any inconvenience or disruption of custom for their hosts.

  3. One, my home church, First Pres Tallahassee has committed to only serving vegetarian meals (with local produce) at church dinners. (Potlucks, of course, are different.)

    Two, my wife’s a veggie. When in Scotland it was tough, and she ate fish. That took care of the being invited over to another house problem. People like experimenting with fish. And it’s tasty (and fun to grill).

  4. I was going to advocate something along the lines of the Trappist Vegetarians, though it came to me via Barbara Kingsolver (Small Wonder, maybe?). There is something to be said for eating less/organic/no meat at home, but eating whatever a host offers.

  5. Oh my goodness, I’ve been a Trappist, but didn’t know it!

    I go back and forth between the trappist version (none at home but I’ll eat it as a guest) and eating fish and poultry only (both at home and on the road.)I did use to do the whole thing, but struggled with church stuff. Lately, I’ve been contemplating dropping the poultry and just being a pescetarian. But who knows.

    And yes, veggies on the grill are divine! (so is fish)

  6. I’ve been a vegetarian for over a decade, though the smell of grilling meat still invokes a consistent Pavlovian response. It’s just so…tasty…

    I started mostly ’cause my wife was a veggie, but now find that it’s not just the eco-benefits and health benefits that originally drove my choice, but also a whole range of theological rationalizations having to do with the diet in Eden and my unwillingness to personally contribute to the suffering of God’s creatures.

    That said, I haven’t had any issues with it impacting my pastorly food-consuming responsibilities. It takes some gentle explaining to the good folks who proffer up the casseroles and/or the bulgogi, but I’m fine with that, and my church folk have been patient with me. I don’t think you could run for public office and not eat meat, but many churches…even conservative ones…are willing to be cool about it so long as you’re not smug or anal retentive about your choice.

    I bought a grill this year, on which I cook up the burgers and dogs that my boys so love. Grilling veggies works just fine, and some stuff (Morningstar Farms Grillers Prime or Veggie Dogs or marinated portobello) actually grill up sorta tasty like.

  7. I was a pastor and now a non-profit director that works with many different other non-profits such as homeless shelters and transitional shelters that it was hard to work in without eating meat – I did the Trappist thing with a bit of a twist (if I was in charge…so I would eat veggie if at out with friends, but if I was being hosted by folks I didn’t know or were at work I would eat meat).

    This worked for about 2 years; then my doctor suggested that I not call myself a vegetarian because I was beating myself up when I would eat meat for my ethical reasons (at shelters and others) which would cause for unneeded stress. I say this not to discourage you – but rather to make you aware that if your mindset is that you are failing yourself by eatting meat – it won’t work. Prepare and it should be a good experience.

  8. Yes, this “trappist” designation is giving us a new word for what is probably a common practice. Why don’t you just move away from eating meat, eat lots of legumes and vegetables, and see what happens?

  9. My husband is a pescetarian (thanks Susan for the vocab) and has not had much problem as a clergy spouse. He actually really liked that he became the kind of celebrity-for-the-cause at my last parish… before we got there, veg options were never offered, even though there were vegtarians in the congregation! But because he was married to the assistant, there were veg options at parish events. The other vegetarians were happy, and people got to learn about his choice to eat that way.

    Personally, I love cheeseburgers. But if you live in a veg-friendly place, like DC, there’s not much reason to not be veg if you want to! And don’t get rid of your grill, its handy for vegetarians! So much easier to grill hot dogs for some people and veggie sausages or portabellos or whatever for vegetarians than it is to do multiple things on a stove!

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