Picture a traditional Christian church built in 1855 and images of hymn singing and solemn praying might come to mind. At Zion United Church of Christ in Downtown Evansville, however, activities like Kundalini yoga, reflexology, and vegan cooking are the standard practices.
Since 2015, Common Ground Community Kitchen has operated out of the church, providing vegan (and often gluten-free) meals to members of the community. One of the goals of Zion’s pastor Kimron Reising was to utilize the empty space in the church to provide a place for people with alternative healing and spiritual practices to share their talents with the community.
“Part of my vision was to be able to provide a healthy meal during the noon hour for Downtown folks,” says Reising. “Once the café opened up, I began to meet a lot of other people who had a lot of knowledge, understanding, and experience in vegetarian and vegan diets. It fits well with our desire to be a place of healing in the community.”
Common Ground, operated by chef Peggy Pirro, officially opened in the church in January 2016 as a continuation of the meals offered at River City Food Co-op, now closed. There is no set menu; instead, Pirro crafts the dishes based on what local food is available and shares the menu by week on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Common Ground also has no set rate for meals, offering its dishes for a “pay what you can” price.
“The thought process simply is we want good food to be available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status,” says Reising. “To me, that is part of the ministry — making what we have available to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for it. We do have folks who come in and offer their gratitude for a good meal because that is all they have to offer. That’s gladly accepted.”
For more information about Common Ground Community Kitchen, visit facebook.com/commongroundkitchen.