“One cherished value at Community of Joy Church in Eagan, Minnesota is right in the name—community. This means spending time together both during worship and at other planned and unplanned gathering times. Equally important is the idea of extending that community to others, not only by welcoming those who may join us, but by actively inviting them to take part. This goes for people in the neighborhood of the church building itself, as well as those in the spheres of influence of our church families. It includes many different types of activities. Elder Jason Lindahl shares his experience with one such activity enjoyed by many—brick oven pizza nights!”
Rev. Danny Bronson
Community of Joy Church
I never met any resistance when I started shopping around the idea of building a brick pizza oven. From the pastor on down, everyone liked the idea. I got lucky when I found someone who was as excited as I was, and willing to build it! Paul researched designs, price compared materials, and enlisted his dad’s help to get it built. He called us in to mix and pour concrete for the table, but otherwise took the ball and ran with it, cutting bricks and assembling the dome. Over the course of a summer our pizza oven came together.
In the seven years since, we’ve tried different crusts, different sauces, different brands of cheese. We’ve held events as early as May and as late as October (it gets dark really early in October). One year we held events twice a month. In the pandemic summer of 2020 we didn’t hold any events until August. We had so much fun that we squeezed in one more event in September to finish out the season.
A serendipitous aspect of these events is that you can’t make fifty pizzas at once, or in advance. As people arrive, we take their orders and make them by hand. One volunteer cuts and delivers the pizzas when they’re ready. Meanwhile we have an intergenerational gathering for the purpose of enjoying a summer evening and strengthening our community. Older folks and kids meet at the pop cooler and have an opportunity for conversation. Friends who have been away traveling can catch up with each other in a circle of lawn chairs. Kids and adults join in a pickup game of kickball.
Having a brick pizza oven in our backyard provides the easiest invitation to church you’ll ever give. Those invited have included friends, neighbors, extended family, and coworkers. It’s an opportunity for them to experience the welcome and caring of our church family.
The idea of the pizza oven was to serve our congregation and our greater community through fun, delicious food, and fellowship. After years of experimentation, we have a pizza we like and a schedule that meets our needs. On the second Fridays of June, July, and August, there’s wood-fired pizza, picnic tables, a playground, activities for kids, and probably a pick-up game in Community of Joy’s backyard. And if we haven’t had enough at the end of the summer, we might be out there in September too. You’re welcome to join us!
Jason Lindahl serves as an elder at Community of Joy Church in Eagan, Minnesota.