Vegan meal promotes fellowship and conversation


From fall to spring, all members of the College of Wooster and local community are invited to a vegan meal, held most third Thursdays of every month at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 353 E. Pine St., Wooster.  

“It began as a support group for those starting to explore veganism as a way of life and eating, and it grew from there,” said Erin Guzman, director of student ministries at Westminster and affiliate campus minister at the College of Wooster.

Guzman said it has continued to expand over the years, drawing anywhere from 50-90 community members and college students per month.

According to Guzman, the format of the evening has changed a bit to create more space for fellowship and community conversation and to encourage connections between community members and college students.

The event is described at the tables on paper place mats as “an intentional space where students, church and community members can gather in a spirit of mindfulness to fellowship, have conversation and build relationships across lines of difference.”

“We want to make the meal more conversation-based. We want it to be a truly intergenerational kind of event,” Guzman said. “There aren’t many truly intergenerational places in our culture anymore. We often segregate people based on age and phase of life.”

Everyone is welcome at the meal. There is no religious, spiritual or dietary tradition that is expected or required.

“We have a lot of folks who are vegan,” Guzman said, “many who are not. Some come from a spiritual tradition; many do not. It’s a really unique space.”

At the initial gathering of the 2018-19 school year on Oct. 18, the group ranged from those who have been vegan for years, to those learning more about veganism and the preparing of vegan foods, to omnivorous individuals attending purely for the chance for community connection and conversation.

The meal lasts approximately one hour. Attendees sit at round tables of eight and serve themselves family style.

Rather than a cafeteria-style potluck as in the past, the main meal is now provided by a local vegan chef.

“If folks have an interest in trying out vegan dessert recipes, they can bring them,” Guzman said. “We also welcome small donations to keep this meal going. We suggest $5, but you don’t need to bring money or a dessert. You can just come.”

Community members and college students also are welcome to come early and help set up or stay and help with dishes and clean up as their contribution.

“We rely on volunteers,” Guzman said. “We welcome volunteers.”

In the center of each table, a list of questions created by Guzman has been set to help generate conversation. The majority of the tables used the questions as a jumping-off point for getting acquainted.

“We have some questions that are like prompts, but we really want to keep it open on purpose,” Guzman said.

The theme for October was “Change and Becoming.” Questions ranged from the deeply personal — “who is one person who has helped you become the person you are today?” — to the lighter: “what drew you to the vegan meal?” and “why come here instead of dining somewhere else?”

Community member Dave Noble comes to most of the meals. “I helped get it started,” he said. “I love getting to know the college students.”

Alysa Tarrant is a senior at the college and has been attending the vegan meal since her freshman year. A lifelong vegetarian and vegan since she was 16, Tarrant is studying veganism for her independent study project.

Senior Monet Davis attends for a variety of reasons. “It’s a really good way to connect with the Wooster community,” she said.

Like many of the college students at the recent meal, first-year student Lilia Eisenstein came because a friend invited her. “I’m so excited to see what the evening has to offer,” she said.

Senior Rie Matsuzaki comes to every vegan meal. “I really like the food and the atmosphere,” she said. “You get to interact with people from the community, which you really don’t do otherwise.”

Community members Bernie and Tencha Schafrath have been attending the vegan meal for three years. “We look forward to it,” Tencha Schafrath said. “It’s a great way to meet the students.”

“I’ve become more vegan since we started coming,” Bernie Schafrath said. “We meet the students. I really enjoy it.”

Guzman said the timing of the monthly gathering is not always strictly on the third Thursday of every month, due to college and church schedules.

The meal also is listed online on the church calendar at

The next community vegan meal will take place on Thursday, Nov.15.

Although RSVPs are appreciated and helpful for planning, they are not required.

“We’re hoping that folks will come and enjoy fellowship and community and strengthen existing relationships and hopefully build new ones,” Guzman said.

For more information email Guzman at or use the Contact Us section of the church website at

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load