The PRO-SPHORA Program has as its main goal to revive the rich tradition of Orthodox Christian breads and the deep metaphors of bread-making as lessons for a more humane personhood and society. The program organizes community baking events in parishes and communities where people express interest and initiative, in order to inspire people to weave together closer relationships of love and sharing, combining the making of bread (could be prosphora but not limited to it) with the reading and discussion of Scripture, preferably with a priest or theologian.
The PROS-PHORA Program is inspired by the rich Orthodox Christian traditions of liturgical prosphora breads and their respective prosphora wood-carved stamps. The name prosphora comes from the Greek “pro” meaning “forward” and “phora” meaning “to bring,” thus “brought forward” is the offering of bread to God. The name of the Orthodox breads program of the Bread Houses, PROS-PHORA, is specifically spelled with space in between, so as to mark that the series of activities are not only about making prosphora for the Liturgy but also for making other kinds of traditional Christian breads, unified by the inspiration of the gift – the most basic but suffused with love and care gifts of bread that people collectively make and exchange with each other as well as offer to God. For our PROS-PHORA Program what matters is not the final bread product but the process and inspiration and spiritual value of “bringing forward:” of giving, sharing, and loving.
The PRO-SPHORA is also working towards developing a network of Orthodox Christian-inspired bakeries that already exist and add to their work the Bread House method of collective bread-making and the revival of the homefamily prosphora bread stamp tradition. An exemplary case of such bakeries is St John’s Bakery in Toronto, Canada,(http://www.stjohnsbakery.com/) which specializes in organic sourdough breads and sweets, handmade from scratch in the traditional French method, owned and operated by St. John the Compassionate Mission, a Russian Orthodox mission which offers daily meals, a thrift store, a tutoring academy and St. Silouan Orthodox Church (read more about it here:http://www.christianweek.org/stories.php?id=511).
Dr. Nadezhda Savova has been also cooperating with world-renowned Orthodox Christian baker Peter Reinhart, who invited her to his baking class at the Charlotte Community Kitchen cooking program for low-income and at risk youth in October 2011, and also to the Charlotte St. Nectarius Orthodox church. Peter Reinhart reflects in some of his books on his journey from Judaism into Christian Orthodoxy catalyzed by his discovery of the deep theological meaning of the rising of the bread and bread in general as a metaphor of life and salvation in Orthodox Christianity.
Grounded in the foundational Christian values of love and sharing of one table – and the symbolic partaking of one bread and one cup of wine in Communion – the Bread Houses strive to be spaces for communication and collective creations of artistic forms among religions – the arts being the most neutral but also engaged medium for dialogue – where each group preserves its beliefs and traditions while engaging together with other in the most basic and in a way innocent of all creative actions and universal symbol of love: the baking and breaking of bread!
The prosphora bread is specifically used for the Eucharist/Communion as it gets transformed into the Body of Christ together with the wine becoming the Blood after being blessed on the altar. For its sacred use and meaning, the prosphora bread involves also a special process of making prosphora, suffused with particularly joyful, thanks-giving, and prayerful dispositions of the mind and heart, and this is why it is a wonderful collective celebration for the members of a parish to come together Saturday evening and make the prosphora for the Sunday Liturgy in preparation for the partaking of the same cup.
The Orthodox-inspired PROS-PHORA activities have taken place and keep occuring at the St. Christopher Bread House in Bulgaria and in some of the programs or events undertaken at other Orthodox churches and monasteries in Bulgaria and around the world, connected through Nadezhda’s travels for academic and development work as well as personal pilgrimages.
These events engage people of all generations to revive traditional Orthodox festive breads, for example Chrsitmas or Easter breads, which in Bulgaria, for example, do bear the same stamps as the breads in the Liturgy but also other kinds of decoration with dough. The Program strives to preserve and re-create Orthodox bread traditions across the East from Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria to the Coptic in Egypt, and from the Ethiopians (the oldest Christian African country tracing its Christian rituals back to Apostle Mathew) to the Syriac Christians of Kerala in India tracing their heritage back to Apostle Thomas. These varied Christian festive bread traditions provide for a great variety that also generates artwork and discussions around the century-old artistic traditions.
Nadezhda Savova has organized collective prosphora and festive bread-making events atvarious churches around Bulgaria and at Orthodox churches and monasteries from San Francisco to St. Nicholas in Seoul ( Korea) . The events are often coupled with lectures and discussions on Biblical parables, symbolism, and other theological and moral issues, as well as Byzantine chant and iconographic exhibits or documentary movie projections.
As bread-breaking is a universal symbolic act of peace-building, “Make/break bread, not war!” is a much needed philosophy particularly in a world torn by religious fanaticism and hatred, where religions could rather continue co-existing in peace the way they did for centuries, and rather than arguing over religious truths, as theological issues are clear on the impossibility of different Christian denominations taking Communion together and clearly not having prayer-based communion among religions, what could be more neutral and innocent, yet more passionate and powerful, than making and breaking simple daily bread together as humans ultimately made of the same dough!
Churches, monasteries, and charitable organizations, where Nadezhda Savova has organizedBread House Orthodox Christian events (in chronological order since 2009) include:
– Japan, Tokyo, St. Nicholas of Japan Orthodox Church (interested in Bread House Program) (august 2009)
– South Korea, Seoul, Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. Nicholas (sept 2009)
– South Africa, Cape Town, St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral (sept 2009)
– Bulgaria: Gabrovo (with local orphanage); Russe (St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and Monastery of St. Marina with local orphanage), Varna (St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and St. Michael Parish Center); Sofia, St. St. Cyril and Methodius and their Students Parish Center;Pleven, St. Dimiter Church in the village of Koilovtzi with local orphanage; Aytos (St. Dimiter Church on August 15, 2011, with local schools); Plovdiv (St. Konstantin and Helen Church and Sunday School);
– Russia: St. Petersburg, New Russian Martyrs Church Parish Center and Russian Children’s Hospital (july 2010); Moscow, St. Daniil Monastery Youth Volunteer Group at Parish Center (july 2010); St. Segii of Radonezh Monastery, bread-making at the nearby Orthodox Youth Camp (july 201o)
St.St. Cyril and Methodius Bulgarian Orthodox Church (May 2011);
Mother of God Parish Brighton Beach(Father Vadim Arefiev) , St. John of Kronshtadt Shelter for the Homeless (http://www.svdom.org/english/save_our_souls.html) and the Mother of God Parish with the Orthodox Business Association, www.orthodoxunited.org, where we built a wood-fired oven to implement our Bread Houses Network Program also in Brighton Beach (Program launched on January 19th,the Baptism of Christ; oven blessed on March 11, 2012)
Emmaus House Orthodox Center caring for the homeless in Harlem (www.emmaushouse-harlem.org)
Church of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco “Mother of God, Joy of all who Sorrow”, together with the St.St. Cyril and Methodius School (October 31st, 2011)
Holy Resurrection Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Christmas Celebration with music, food, and ritual breads, January 6th, 2012)
Joy of All Who Sorrow Bulgarian Orthodox Church (led prosphora-baking workshop during the summer retreat for all Bulgarian Orthodox youth in the USA, 2011)
Loafers to Bakers group (http://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/sets/72157625257407815/)
Please, feel free to contact us directly if you need more information or would like to organize an event or develop a Bread House Prosphora Breads program in your parish or community center or any other setting. The formats can vary widely, and indeed not focus on prosphora bread but on any other kind of festive bread, as long as the key is to develop the space most propitious to local social interactions – for community-building and in some cases peace-building across religious and ethnic groups – through the inspiring activity of bread-making and most importantly bread-breaking as perhaps the most universal act of peace and love!
First Firing of the newly-built oven
at the “St.John of Kronshtadt” Homeless Shelter, Brighton Beach
Launching of the Bread Houses Network Program in Brighton Beach
Sunday, March 11th, 1-2:30pm, Church of the Mother of God The Holy Chalice, http://www.svxram.org/english_church%202/index.html
Listed as a national Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) event:
Building the oven at “St. John of Kronshtadt” Shelter
January 24th, 2012
Built as volunteer donation by master-builder Feodor (Ukraine) who has built ovens for the world-famous pilgrimage site the Pochaev Monastery.
Volunteers were inspired to build the fire oven (similar to the way it happened in Bulgaria with the first Bread House St. Christopher) after the launching of the Bread Houses Network Program in Brighton Beach was announced on January 19th,the Baptism of Christ. On that day, the whole community came together for the blessing of the ocean waters, and after people ritually washed themselves in the cold waters, all came together in the warmth of the church and the oven where parishioners and homeless people made, baked, and broke bread sharing their experiences of daily life through the rhythm of the Eucharistic vision of the world. The ease with which the method united and made feel comfortable the homeless people with the parishioners, for example the case of the homeless man from Muslim origin, Mohammad, who felt so attracted by the promise to make and bake his own bread that any mistrust faded away, proved how useful the method would be in the future to do outreach to bring the homeless to the safe space of the shelter.
This type of activities are planned to happen regularly run by local volunteers trained in the BHN Methods.