“A shared meal is the activity most tied to the reality of God’s Kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.” Christine Pohl
This one is as simple as it sounds. I discovered that eating together around a table was pretty important to breaking down barriers and creating a sense of community among really different people.
(To read what it looks like in different congregations, click on the green tabs below)
(Fresh Wind; Abbotsford, BC) Co-founder Brad Jersak credits Soup Sundays for transforming a disconnected congregation into a family. Soup Sundays are not about hurriedly eating soup before or after the service. Eating together IS the service. Brad Jersak tells how this began.He was in prayer and heard God say, “Fresh Wind has been meeting for over five years but you haven’t become a family. Every time I tell you this, you have a BBQ and it’s not working!” It was true. People could still slip in and out of the worship service without meaningful connection to each other or the congregation. Church leadership went into prayer and came up with the idea of having soup as the service. Since its implementation, social barriers started to break down as people started getting to know each other and a strong sense of family was formed among really different people.
(Northern Lighthouse Mission; Lincoln, NE) Many inmates and former-inmates laugh when they admit they started coming to Northern Lighthouse for the free food and time out of jail but found themselves coming back because of the love and acceptance they experienced in that place. Even though it is labor-intensive for a small congregation, Lighthouse Mission provides meals for inmates on Saturdays and Sundays because the inmates love eating non-prison food. Saturdays is a program where inmates provide free car maintenance to community members. At noon, mechanical tools are put down for a freshly cooked meal by volunteers. On Sundays, a hearty lunch is provided post-service for inmates and congregants providing a chance for people to get to know each other.
(Grandview Calvary Baptist; Vancouver, BC) Almost every initative or program that has grown out of Grandview Calvary, and there are many, has a component of eating together. Grandview has two services that function as separate congregations. Both congregations eat a meal together; the morning service/congregation monthly and the evening service/congregation every week. From serving breakfast to children in its kids drama program to serving a healthy fresh meal to the homeless every Thursday night, food is central to how Grandview lives out its calling to hospitality. And the proof of its power is in the community and sense of being a “people” among a very diverse congregation.
(Peace Lutheran; Tacoma, WA) All Are Welcome at the Feast is a colorful mural depiction of a multi-colored, different aged group feasting at a banqueting table. The mural is displayed prominently outside of Peace Lutheran’s sanctuary giving visual testimonty to how eating together- both at the Lord’s Table and the common table- brings the people of Peace Lutheran together. Communion is central to Peace’s worship service and from there, congregants can partake of a hot breakfast that is served between the two services for church members and anyone in the community who wants to attend. The breakfast is a chance for folks who attend the two services to sit down together and connect. At Peace, every church function has food, from church-wide business meetings to council meetings. As one congregant said, “People at Peace LOVE to eat!” Every congregant I interviewed mentioned the monthly potlucks where the diversity of Peace is showcased in the different ethnic dishes on the table. It’s a chance where the congregation gets to literally taste and celebrate the diversity of cultures in their midst.