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!
After almost five years, Potluck Church is leaving the safe, nurturing nest of our first home and moving out on our own.
It’s an exciting time. To start out, we are going to be a pop-up church--we’ll be trying a different location for a month at a time to explore were God might be settling us next. I’m re-assured by the line from Tolkien’s poem, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Ours will be a journey of intentional wandering. Along the way, as we spread our potluck meal on new tables around town, we hope to meet new neighbors where they are and learn about different areas and spaces in our community. Watch the Connect page of our website (http://www.potluckchurch.com/connect-with-potluck-church.html) or our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MadisonvillePotluck/) to see where we’ll pop up each month.
Our first pop-up will be this Tuesday, July 31, at 6pm at Kentucky Innovation Station at 38 W. Arch St., Madisonville (http://www.kentuckyinnovationstation.com), and then we plan to gather there on Tuesdays throughout August. Innovation Station is a beautifully restored train depot that houses co-working entrepreneurs and also the Madisonville Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation. The historic space is designed for collaboration, creativity, and connection. What will it be like to gather for worship around their tables? What will we learn about our neighbors? Join us to see for yourself!
Last year our family took a vacation to Washington, D.C. In the weeks before we left several folks recommended that we MUST put the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History on our things-to-do list. I confess that the name instantly turned me off. Cavernous halls of large displays of dinosaur bones instantly came to mind. Not my thing! (Sorry, dino lovers.) Well, we went—mostly to say that we did to all of those who were determined that we go. It was AMAZING!
The best part was the interactive education area for tweens and teens called Q?rius (pronounced curious). Part of this area is the Collection Zone--a giant room of hundreds of drawers with thousands of specimens to be taken out of storage, touch, put under a microscope and explore. Our minds were blown. Instead of walking through halls of reported information about displays, the museum has turned itself inside out and given the visitor the ability to tap into one’s own curiosity and do hands-on exploration. (See more at https://qrius.si.edu/what-qrius-experience.)
As a parent, I’m a big believer in stoking a child’s curiosity and keeping a child’s zeal for learning alive. We do this by reading books together to do deep-dives on topics of interest, asking open-ended questions, and googling things together that we don’t know. In our parenting we confess the limits of our understanding and knowledge. But Q?rius was a place where my husband and I could step out of the role of broker or facilitator and just let our child explore with abandon.
It made me wonder…is there a way to turn the church inside out in such a way that those who encounter it might explore and seek out answers to their own questions and curiosities about the Christian life and scriptures? What would that look like?
Alan Donegan of PopUp Business School recommends asking the following questions before you consider taking out a loan to start a business, and the same questions could serve us well as we consider starting a new ministry:
Maybe you need meeting space, a website, legal services, carpentry, or furniture. Many of these seemingly insurmountable steps in your vision of what you are going to need for your ministry can actually be obtained for free.
Because of the generosity of others, Potluck Church has received free legal services, website design, graphic design software, logo design, business cards, hand sanitizer, paper products, bins, start-up grants, candle lighters, grocery gift cards, leadership training, planter coaching, table decorations, fresh table flowers, and more--all for FREE!
And, thanks to the generous people of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Madisonville, Kentucky, we’ve borrowed over four years of meeting space, dishes, utensils, glasses, Bibles, Wi-Fi, a TV, a dishwasher, tablecloths, tables, chairs, sink, refrigerator space, restrooms, and utilities. (Thanks again, FCC Madisonville! We are forever grateful.)
In the beginning of starting a new church or ministry, it’s so easy to feel like you are all alone in an impossible calling, but the truth is none of us are alone. All around us are gifted people that God is also calling forth to join in the divine work, and when their callings and yours align, God creates an amazing synergy that makes us all greater than the sum of our parts. Lead with a generous sprit willing to share your own talents with others, and start seeking and asking for what you need.
So, can you start a new church or ministry for free? YES, by the grace of God and the gifts of God’s people.
On this Good Friday, I humbly ask that you come, Lord Jesus, and remind us yet again of why you died on that cross.
Remind us of those greatest commandments of loving our God with heart, life force, intention, and might, and of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Remind us of the ransom--your executed body on display--demanded by the powers and principalities in order to strike fear and terror among the people who sought freedom from imperial rule and oppression.
Remind us, Lord Jesus, of all that is left undone, and give us the courage to continue in "The Way," even if it may mean that we, too, have to call out the greedy powers and tyrannical leaders, systems, and corporations in our own time.
What crosses are we to carry now, Christ Jesus?
Please remind us. We seem to have lost our way.
written by Rachel
Set a table, invite Christ and others, leave an empty chair, serve up some powerful questions, and break bread.