I’ve found that at the end of a stressful day, or when I’m struggling with a problem that seems too big to handle, or if I’ve gotten crosswise with someone, if I can just step into the kitchen and take a moment to cook a dish—any dish really—I come out in a better place in the end.
The kitchen is one of my happy places. It is the closest thing I have to an artist studio. Chopping and whisking and stirring put me in a mentally restful zone of creativity. Cooking is one of those activities that produces something tangible in short order. Unlike much of my work, cooking has a finish line, an end point, a result. However the dish turns out, I can look at it and say, “I made this.”
As God’s creatures maybe we all need spaces in our lives to be creators. But what elevates this experience to the next level is having the opportunity and privilege of sharing my dish with another person who is eager to eat. What joy!
This weekend I was at Christmount, in the North Carolina mountains, for a gathering with ordained and lay Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) church leaders from the southeastern United States. At almost every meal someone asked me about what goes on at Potluck Church. So, maybe it’s time to do another FAQ round-up. Here are quick responses to three questions:
What do people bring to eat?
Potluckers bring what they can or want to bring. Some quickly grab fresh fruit or vegetables from the market. Some have their crockpot work all day to create a great soup or stew. Some make old family recipes or their favorite casseroles. Some pick up drive-through pizzas or bags of tacos. Some make big dishes that they would never make for just themselves. Some make treasured comfort foods their moms or dads used to make. Some assemble more than cook. Some deliver more than prepare. We bring what we are inspired to offer.
What is your worship like?
We light a candle, thank God for our food, eat, talk about where we experienced God recently, discuss what God might have for us in a Bible reading, pray for each other, share communion, do dishes together and go home. Hopefully, this blog post on our order of worship (http://www.potluckchurch.com/potluck-church-blog/a-dinner-church-order-of-worship-or-liturgy) gives you a more complete sense of how our worship unfolds. To the right of this post you’ll also see the how-to and hosting categories of the blog. There you’ll find posts that go into more detail. Or better yet, just come visit us!
Is Potluck Church a part of a denomination?
Yes, we are excited to be a church in formation in the Kentucky region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We are a people of the table who believe in the radical inclusion that the Lord offers us all. You can learn more about the Disciples denomination at www.disciples.org.
.At the beginning of this new year I asked the potluckers to choose a guiding word for this year and send it to be over Facebook. Over the course of the week, folks started chiming in with their words. They selected words like “peace,” “forbearance,” “abandon,” “focus,” “appreciation,” “hope,” “water,” and “discipline.” Looking over the list, I immediately started to think of scriptures, and poems, and authors who had spoken about these very words. David Foster Wallace’s This is Watercame to mind. So did David Steindl-Rast’s work on appreciation and gratitude. And Jan Richardson’s poem on hope. It was like our worship conversation pieces were assembling themselves. What if we took one word each week and made it the theme of our conversation and all of the elements of our worship (i.e. our prayers, communion meditation, and benediction)? So, that’s what we did.
It’s been amazing to find the connections among these words. For instance, how can we have peace without hope or forbearance? How can we have appreciation or live with abandon without a mindful focus? What role does appreciation and hope play in forbearing others?
The pastor in me has enjoyed feeling that our worship might be meeting specific needs around the table, if only those of one potlucker each week. The public confession of our obstacles, and learned wisdom in these areas is helping us to support one another in a deeper, more authentic way.
Maybe the people around your table have words that they need to explore with others. Maybe your community is the only invitation that they will have to share these words that they are carrying.
Maybe, like me, you are just now beginning to think about the studies and conversations you hope to have during Lent this year. It certainly will be here before we know it.
I’ve written in the past about our Potluck Church tradition of eating pancakes at the beginning of our Lenten journey (see http://www.potluckchurch.com/potluck-church-blog/ash-wednesday-but-who-do-you-say), and I’m thinking that will be true again this year. But what will our discussions be about this year? We often begin discerning our worship plan by looking back on what we’ve done in years past. Maybe this list will be of help to you, too.
What will you or your church be exploring on your Lenten pilgrimage this year?
As we approach our five-year Potluck Church birthday, it’s amazing to see how many others have joined with us in the dinner church movement. God has made something old new again. Seeds planted and scattered have started to take root, and it’s an honor to get to watch them grow. Many have looked to St. Lydia’s and its planter Emily Scott for inspiration and generous encouragement. Next year, Kendall Vanderslice’s new book, We Will Feast,will offer us a sense of how dinner church has grown and developed in faith and practice over these last few years.
In 2015, Bud Tillinghast started an ecumenical dinner church website and two Facebook groups (one for broad conversations about the historical and theological underpinnings of dinner churches and the other for practical, how-to conversations). If you are just beginning to think about spreading a table for worship in this way, let me encourage you to set aside some time to dive into the deep web of connections that Bud has woven at The Dinner Church Movement Facebook page. You’ll find stories of discernment, wandering, and a wonderful diversity of possibilities for what God might be calling your church’s table to become.
The Dinner Church Movement:https://www.facebook.com/Dinner.Church/
Dinner Church Workshop: https://www.facebook.com/groups/505900006237734/
Kendall Vanderslice: http://kendallvanderslice.com
If you were to visit Potluck Church, you might witness something like this:
[We welcome folks by name and invite them to get a drink.]
Light the Christ Candle
[We ask for a volunteer light the Christ Candle, and we say, “We light this candle to remind us that Christ is with us in this very room.”]
[We invite someone to pray for the meal.]
Fill Plates and Eat
[First-time guests are invited (and sometimes cajoled) to go first.]
Announcements and Birthdays
[When we have no desserts on hand, sometimes the birthday candle gets lodged in a fried chicken wing.]
[We ask, “Where did you experience God since we last gathered?”]
Introduce Topic or Theme for Discussion
Read and Discuss Scripture and/or other materials
[We ask: “What is your prayer?” Prayer joys and concerns are shared, and then a volunteer offers a prayer for all that has been shared.]
Preparation for the Breaking of Bread/Communion Meditation
Breaking Bread (Communion)
[We explain that we’ll rip off a piece of the bread, dip it in the cup, and then serve your neighbor. ]
Words of Institution
Sharing of the Bread and Cup
[Either a volunteer serves as a deacon serving each person around the table, or we simply pass
the plate and cup, serving our neighbor around the table.]
“What do you do when there isn’t enough food?” people sometimes ask about Potluck Church. To date we’ve never experienced that challenge.
The challenge we face is discerning how to faithfully address our leftovers. Some will take their dish home to share with others in their family or to have for lunch the next day. Some will swap a few servings with other potluckers who especially enjoyed their dish. And some nights there is great excitement when a potlucker knows of a neighbor or friend who might benefit from a home-cooked meal, and immediately we all start grabbing our polka dot to-go containers and filling them with servings of an entrée, and veggies, a slice of dessert, and some extra carbs—because who doesn’t need extra carbs when life is challenging? It’s a thrill for us to share this meal will others and to send a message letting them know that we are thinking of them.
Recently after breaking my arm, I was the recipient of polka dot to-go containers of summer gazpacho, corn salad, chia seed chips, and homemade chicken salad. More than an abundant meal, it was a sweet reminder that I was remembered and loved. God bless the leftovers!
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.