On Epiphany 2021, as I watched the images of mobs storming the United States Capital building, I felt compelled to write a thank-you letter to all of my loved ones in Potluck Church. So, I grabbed my laptop and opened up our Facebook group page and hurriedly hacked out:
“This may seem like an odd thing to say on a day like this, but I feel compelled to say how SO very thankful I am for each of you personally and for the whole of us as a church--that we, despite all of our many (many!) differences, have gathered around the Lord's Table to practice civil, respectful conversation and learned to love each other just as we are and honor the light of Christ in one another even in our imperfections. God is bigger than all of our perspectives and opinions and sins. And God's call upon us is far greater than any one of us can imagine or see or discern. We need each other. Thank you for being one of the few places in my life where I can freely share my opinions and know that they will be gently heard with love and challenged with an equal amount of love. The world needs more of this thing that God has created among us. I love you all!”
Because of Potluck Church I can testify that the Lord’s Table is not just a place for presiding over and serving communion. The Potluckers have shown me that the Lord’s Table can be a place for sitting down and sharing our hearts and minds with one another in a respectful and sacred space. And each time when I leave that Table, I feel heard, and known, and challenged, and loved.
Around the table we share our doubts, worries and fears. We question almost everything, and learn from one another’s lives. And we confess that none of us has all of the answers. We need each other to get even a glimpse of just how big the God we worship and serve really is. God has many ways of healing this world, and I know that one of the most powerful ways is in the breaking of bread around a table with lots of chairs.
What if all of our churches held communion as a full meal…at a table suitable for dining…with enough chairs for everyone…and a space held between them that is so respectful that even their conversation can be called “sacred” and “worship”? What healing might God unleash upon us all?
When the opportunity presents itself to worship at home around your table, here is an order to consider. Simply place a candle in the center of your table, grab a Bible, and set a place for Christ at your table with a plate of crackers or bread and a pitcher or cup of juice.
Light the Christ Candle
[Light a candle, and say, “I/we light this candle to remember that Christ is with us in this very room.”]
[Offer a pray for the meal.]
Fill Plate(s) and Begin to Eat
Announcements and Celebrations
[Share or reflect on any celebrations happening in your life/lives.]
[Reflect on the question, “Where did you experience God recently?”]
Read and Discuss or Reflect Upon a Scripture
[One at a time, reflect on the questions:
[Share or reflect on the question: “What is your prayer today?” Offer a prayer for the prayers named and the time of worship.]
Breaking Bread (Communion)
Words of Institution [Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.]
Sharing of the Bread and Cup [Pass a plate of crackers or bread and pitcher or cup of grape juice, serving others around the table.]
[Close with a prayer or song of thanksgiving for the day.]
We’ve been receiving more great questions lately, so I thought I’d share a few of them here in another FAQ round-up:
Where do you gather for worship?
In July of 2018 we started living into a pop-up model of gathering, changing our location from time to time. To find out where we are gathering this week, check out our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MadisonvillePotluck/.
What should I wear to a Potluck worship?
Most of us seem to come to worship in comfortable, casual clothes. Some of us come directly from our workplaces, so we come in our work clothes, whatever they may be. This week I wore my church camp t-shirt and jeans. Someone else wore a plaid shirt and khakis because he had come directly from a meeting. Another wore her work attire of a dressy shirt and dress pants. Others wore t-shirts and jeans.
Where else can I read more about Potluck Church?
We are so excited and honored to be a part of an important new book that will be coming out May 14, We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God. The author, Kendall Vanderslice, visited nine dinner church communities across the country and chapter by chapter highlighted about each one. Potluck Church is chapter 7, “On Membership.”
We Will Feastchronicles Potluck’s journey into becoming church. It shows our gratitude to First Christian Church of Madisonville, who nested and nurtured us in for those early years. It describes what we have discerned of God’s vision for this community thus far. And, it tells of the answers we have yet to discern.
It’s a beautifully written book. For instance, check out this sentence from Page 101:
Week after week they see community deepen between men and women from
many backgrounds, between folks who come because they so deeply love Jesus
they want to spend all the time they can at his table and folks who come because
they ache so deeply that they need a fistful of bread as a reminder that Jesus
exists at all.
It’s so true; God continues to gather such a diverse group of people around our worship table, and yet we come with an attitude of respect and humility. No topics or questions or vulnerabilities seem to be off limits. We respect faith, and we respect doubt. Two of the lines on Page 99 of We Will Feast that really capture a unique aspect of Potluck Church read:
In this space, the diverse needs are not only heard and lifted up to God together,
but methods for responding to those needs are offered as well. And on those
weeks when some members choose to keep concerns to themselves, their potluck
offering can still provide unspoken insight into what’s going on.
What a gift to be described through the eyes of another--in a published book no less! And, what an honor to have our story told alongside these other eight creative dinner church communities. We are deeply grateful to Kendall for making the trek out to western Kentucky and for sacrificing her time to give her gifts in service to God in this way.
If you would like to learn more about Kendall’s work, download her free group discussion guide and pastor/church leader resource kit, or pre-order a copy of We Will Feast, please visithttp://kendallvanderslice.com/we-will-feast. And, to read a sample chapter, please click the menu tab on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MadisonvillePotluck/.
(Vanderslice, Kendall. We Will Feast: Rethinking Dinner, Worship, and the Community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2019)
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.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.