Last night I was just back from vacation – I’d hardly had a chance to have a family meal at home with my own family. But it was Community Night Dinner at church – and a themed one at that – and so I raced about getting ready to host it, threw together a pasta dish of my own to share, did some juggling to deal with family car and baseball practice schedules, and then was there setting up tables and chairs for the potluck.
It was wonderful – totally worth the bit of juggling I had to do this month. About 25 people showed up, which is small for my congregation’s normal Community Night Dinner size, but still a great number for a social event. The theme was “Use Your Noodle” and everyone was supposed to bring pasta, and there was a judge (one of our high school youth) who picked “winners” in four categories: Best Use of Gluten Free, Most Creative, Most Delicious, and Crowd Favorite. There were people of all ages there, and babies getting passed around while older children played with friends. The group seemed to be content to linger and chat, and in fact I finally felt like I was shooing them out the door so I could clean and lock-up and still get my kids home to bed sort of on time. A great community event.
I truly find something spiritual and vital in the sharing of food, whether it is in my nuclear or extended family, or in the congregation or even the wider community. Food is just an essential part of life, and it should not be forgotten when you are building community.
Here is something I shared in the church newsletter a few months back, that I would like to share again:
Eating in Community
One of the many spiritual practices we have been discussing in my adult education class “Spirit in Practice” is Eating in Community. This is what the curriculum says about it:
When people hear the word “communion,” they usually think of the Christian service of sharing bread and wine (or grape juice) in commemoration of Jesus’s last supper with his friends. Yet the first definition of the word in the American Heritage Dictionary is not in the least religious at all: “The act or an instance of sharing, as of thoughts or feelings.” The word “communion” comes from a Latin word meaning “mutual participation,” and it has the same root as such words as “common” and “community.” So a family eating dinner together—an act that for many families has become rare—can be seen as a kind of spiritual communion.
The sharing of ideas and feelings is an important part of community, but the sharing of food – breaking bread together – has a long history of importance in human relationships. Eating is one of the activities that brings us closest to the world around us, emphasizes our nature as incarnated bodies, and is most necessary to the nourishment of all. Sharing in that nourishment and that experience together bond us as humans (it probably bonds groups of animals as well, but I’m not qualified to speak to that).
Thus, it is so unfortunate that eating in community seems to be one of the casualties of our busy modern lives. When people who live under the same roof are finding it hard to find the time to sit down and share a communal meal, how on Earth will we get a larger community together for a meal? I think the time is there, if we just look for it. The opportunities may not be. I feel incredibly fortunate that my family has Sunday Dinner almost every week at my mother-in-law’s home, and it is a full extended family affair, gathered around a table that is set with flowers and candles and a long, leisurely meal. However, I know this is a rare treasure these days, and not possible for many people.
But we are all fortunate to have opportunities to eat together with our **** community. We have Dinners for Eight, the Annual Dinner, and our monthly Community Dinners. So many opportunities for us to practice the communion of a dinner shared with others! I was thrilled last night to share a Valentine’s Day Dinner with 73 other folks of all ages. In March, we’ll have an opportunity to share a Pi Day Potluck, and then in April it will be “Use Your Noodle: Competitive Pasta Potluck”. (If you have a fun idea for a May dinner, let me or **************** know.)
Please join us, sharing a meal with our wonderful community.