Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Beauty in Breaking Bread

“A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.” -- Christine Pohl, “Making Room, Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition.”

Our modern society hungers for community.  Our novels and films are full of images of isolation and alienation.  Adult singles and families often find it hard to maintain connections even when everyone seems to want to do so.  Especially when many of us live far away from our extended families, our church communities should be filling some of the functions of extended families but too often our church structures reinforce our culture’s exclusive emphasis on immediate families as our only sources of close relationships.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

My friend Liz heard about Jewish communities where people structure their lives around a regular Sabbath and this creates space for people to come together and share meals and share time as a regular part of life.  She and I are Christian, not Jewish, but we wanted to do something similar for our own community.  We decided to collaborate.  Her apartment is better for hosting than mine so that is our home base.  And every other Friday night we have an open invitation to come over for dinner.  We do ask people to let us know by Wednesday if they’re planning on coming so we have a sense of how many to prepare for, but other than that this is quite open.  A few people are there every time.  Some others are there most times.  Others come by occasionally and others haven’t made it yet but hope to at some point.  Most people there are part of our church community, but people have brought other friends along.  One week we had four people and one week we had sixteen.  This seems to be scratching an itch for a lot of people.  After dinner we’ve played games, or celebrated someone’s birthday, or just enjoyed each other’s company.  At the end of the night everyone spends a little time cleaning up so the apartment is left sparkling clean with a running dishwasher.

We’ve learned a few things as we go along.  Having Peapod deliver the groceries reduces the stress load significantly.  Some menu plans are easier than others when cooking for a large group.  We’re still figuring out the best ways to incorporate some liturgy beyond just saying grace.  The first week we tried to pray Evening Prayer from the Daily Office, but it seemed too long to really work well in this setting.  We’re still experimenting with some other possibilities.

Over the summer we are doing this every other Friday night.  Once the school year begins again that schedule will be unsustainable but we’ll try to continue once a month.

As Christians we have always cherished sacramental table fellowship around the altar. That is precious and holy, but in a different way there is also something precious and even holy in fellowship around an ordinary dining room table.

Our current culture doesn’t make it easy to create space for each other, but our experience shows that when we do make the effort the results can make that effort worthwhile.


Kristen Filipic has been involved with the Pauline family since 2010 and completed the Cooperator Formation program in 2014.  She is a native Midwesterner but has lived in Boston for the last twelve years, where she works as a civil rights attorney.  She serves as a lector and a Bible study leader in her home church.

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