Every year around this time, the congregation I belong to makes plans for Gathering Sunday. After a summer of sparser attendance at worship services, our gathering on the first Sunday after Labour Day is always a celebration, a reunion for those of us who vacationed outside the area and for those who stayed put during the summer. We join in the uplifting congregational singing, and every household contributes to the plentiful potluck lunch afterward.
But this year, things will be different, because of the pandemic. Since March, my church has been meeting primarily through pre-recorded services and Zoom meetings. A task force is working on guidelines for when and how we might have larger in-person meetings again. I suspect that enthusiastic congregational singing and a bountiful potluck table will not be on the list of recommendations.
At a church potluck, we experience life together in a concrete way. There are new sights, smells and tastes, as we encounter dishes prepared in other kitchens. Those who brought little, or nothing, still eat well. Sitting around the table together, the generations mingle for conversation about life beyond the church walls—our activities, passions, struggles and successes.
A church meal provides opportunities to serve, starting with the cooks and bakers who share out of the bounty of their garden or pantry. There are those who literally serve the food, and those who clean up after the meal.
In these strange times, special occasions, like weddings, farewells and funerals, are different without food. We long for the joy of eating together—around the potluck table and at the Lord’s Table.
Some vital parts of living as a household of faith remain. As members of our congregations connect with each other through technology, or communicate through masks and glass barriers, we remember that, as Christ’s followers, we belong to each other. In this new reality, we can still cheer each other on in the adventure of discipleship. There are still opportunities to pray for each other and for the world. There are still opportunities to serve.
Right now, our churches may not be having meals together, but Arli Klassen writes of one way to help put food on other tables. Mennonite World Conference is inviting contributions to a fund that assists Anabaptists living in precarious situations caused by COVID-19 in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Mennonite Church Canada has already pledged $50,000 toward this effort, with an invitation for Canadian Mennonites to match that amount.
This is an invitation to imagine a larger table and to do our part in the Global Church Potluck.
Seeking new stories
Speaking of food, you may have noticed the occasional stories in our Gathering Around the Table series. (See the latest one here.) When our editorial group envisioned this series almost four years ago, we considered how food fosters and enhances connections between people. We called on Canadian Mennonite’s readers to help tell those food stories.
Since then, we’ve published articles in which cooks and bakers recall how preparing and sharing a particular dish helped build a sense of community. Each story has a corresponding recipe, which appears only online. Over the years, we’ve served up photos and recipes for rhubarb pie and rice pudding, tourtière and injera (Ethiopian flatbread), frogmore stew and wacky cake, vegan beans and—ah yes!—butter tarts. (You can search canadianmennonite.org for “gathering around the table” for these and others.)
Thank you to the contributors who have shared their stories and recipes. Now here’s a call for other “foodies” to come forward. If you have a favourite recipe and a story of how it helped build connections between people, we invite you to contact editorial assistant Barb Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org. She will help you prepare your submission for appearance on the CM table.
Over the summer, the print issues of Canadian Mennonite are mailed less frequently. But, for digital subscribers, the every-two-week schedule has continued, with digital-only content. The next issue, dated Aug. 31, will be the last digital-only issue of the summer. If you would like to receive that and future issues via email, you can subscribe online at canadianmennonite.org/subscribe/digital or email email@example.com. There is no extra cost to current subscribers.