Christ said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall not hunger.”

He didn’t mention pizza, but a handful of churches in Minnesota are building outdoor community brick ovens to serve the faithful with fresh bread and wood-fired pizzas.

The idea was introduced about five years ago by White Bear Lake United Methodist Church, which since has become sort of a missionary for communal brick ovens as a way to build community and feed physical and spiritual hungers.

The church has helped or inspired about nine other organizations in oven-building efforts around the state, mainly at churches, but also with neighborhood associations and a theological seminary.

Loaves ready to be baked at a recent community bake in the brick bread oven built by Hamline Church United Methodist in St Paul. (Pioneer Press: Richard

Loaves ready to be baked at a recent community bake in the brick bread oven built by Hamline Church United Methodist in St Paul. (Pioneer Press: Richard Chin)

The person who started it all is Bryce Johnson, the pastor of White Bear Lake United Methodist Church, who has been baking bread since he was in high school.

About 13 years ago, Johnson, 61, took a class at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais to learn how to build a brick bread oven. He ended up building one in his own back yard.

In 2009, he went on a sabbatical funded by the Lily Endowment to spend two months in Italy and France to study bread baking and the history of ancient community ovens there.