I was planning to run a small daytime group in the congregation like I did last year, but I really thought that we needed a change and to start taking a risk and invite others to join us.
The question I had to ask myself was “who/what is within the sphere of influence for ministry and community building fellowship?”
We rent a room every Sunday for our worship in the Lions Village complex in Calgary. The seniors are independent and living in their own apartments. In the past we have sponsored a Christmas meal and Stampede Breakfast for them, but nothing on a regular basis.
Instead of starting a group for our own Community of Christ seniors once a week like we did last year, I decided to discuss with some of the residents from the apartment complex who regularly attend our services if they wanted to join in with us. I asked if they wanted to form a joint committee to start up a weekly gathering in their complex with Community of Christ as the host/sponsor.
The two non-member residents and the apartment complex leaders/administration, at my invitation, met with me last week to discuss their interest. The two ladies (friends of the church who have been attending our services) told their apartment management in this meeting about their positive experience with "the Community of Christ people."
I really did not feel I needed to explain much about us as they did it so well for me. I did tell of our mission statement and habit of reaching out as servants in community everywhere we are located.
During the meeting I could feel the excitement and Holy Spirit as we talked. The building manager wrote up a flyer for us and slipped one under each apartment door last week to advertise our first meeting tomorrow. The Village leaders are making the coffee. I am even being given a key to open the outside door (a big trust they have in me).
This Sunday, one of the residents came to our church services after a meeting with the residence social club last week. The folder she handed me with great excitement contained a page of suggestions that someone had slipped under her door as to what topics/activities they wanted to discuss...one suggestion was “spirituality”.
Some of them suggested they could help lead sessions. One lady said she could lead a meeting on “How to tell your story” as a memoir for their family.
I am not doing this alone, I have a joint committee formed with both groups represented. The individuals will decide in the group the degree of leadership they want and the level of participation they wish to have.
Sometimes sharing helps each of us to see how ideas and efforts made can make such a difference as we reach out in community.
Today we’ve gathered around a table in a humanistic tradition that spans millennia and crosses cultural lines: eating together. This simple, yet underrated act is an endangered custom in 2017, and yet, The Atlantic refers to communal dining as “the quintessential human experience.” I wanted to dive into that a little this morning.
As a child, I remember my mom or dad yelling, “dinner’s ready!” from the kitchen, and, recognizing that dinnertime was important, I would immediately spring into action. Arguably, dinnertime was one of the most important moments of the day. It was a time when we, as a family, debriefed our varied life experiences that day. Someone would bless the food by giving thanks for all that we had, including the meal, and then my parents would typically initiate conversation with my brother and me by asking questions like: How was your day? What was something positive that happened to you today? What’s the rest of your week look like? How are your exams going? Gradually, we modeled their questions, allowing us to engage with adults in meaningful ways. The table seemed to give permission to connect in some ways.
Yes, I lived with these people every day, but did I have many opportunities to pause with my family members and ask them questions about their lives? No. Sitting side-by-side, my brother and I were forced to work together to pass dishes and simultaneously felt drawn to look our parents in the eye...sitting just across from us on the other side of the table. There were traditions, too:
Dinnertime in the Johnson home set the stage for an appreciation for sharing with others on a deeper level. Today’s meal was an opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level.
Before any of us even arrived today, we were busy preparing a dish that would represent ourselves to the larger group. This morning, each of us has hand-picked items to bring with us with the intent to tell a story...you might have used family recipes reaching back generations in an attempt to share memories with the group or maybe you brought a new favourite dish to make new memories. Regardless, we are sharing of ourselves. We’ve carefully prepared food to fit the purpose - Thanksgiving -, and we’ve all brought these dishes to this specific table to feed these specific people. You might have even coordinated with others to ensure your dish helped to create a more balanced meal or checked in with others to see if they had any food allergies. If the holiday, venue, or list of attendees changed, our dishes would have changed in-kind. Cooking for others is a personalized ministry.
Each of you have provided a sermon this morning to this community, only instead of sharing individually through spoken word, we’ve created something special with everyone’s edible contributions.
You’ve followed all of the same steps as sermon writing:
While bringing a dish to a potluck might seem simple, I’d argue it’s far more complex than any sermon. You’ve carefully made countless decisions relating to the preparation, execution, and even presentation of a dish that will be eaten by friends and loved ones. When we eat a meal prepared specifically for us by someone else, we are taking into our bodies a sermon of nutrition, sacrifice, tradition, and care. I can taste, smell, and savour your sermon when it is in food form, and for many people (myself included) I associate smells and food with memories.
When we sit together at a table like this one, it truly is sacred. Sacred because though each of us express ourselves through food differently - selfless sharing is abundant. For some of us, we have a sweet tooth, others enjoy simple, no-fuss recipes, and still others enjoy the spiritual practice of highly-detailed concoctions. Whatever we choose to bring, we are still sharing.
The table makes us human by reminding us of our primal connectedness. We each ache for community, we crave good food, and we seek spiritual encounters. As we leave this table today, how can we continue to promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace? I challenge each of us (myself included) to think about the amount of preparation that went into today’s meal and apply it to other forms of ministry and outreach as well. Like we experienced today, are we allowing time to reflect on what individual needs a person might have? Are we being intentional with our actions and words when encountering others? Do we collaborate with others in our community to ensure a more balanced approach? Are we being astute to the needs of others? As we heard in the video...What the world needs now...is love. How will we respond?
May we each fill tables with friends, family, and strangers alike in all aspects of our lives as we learn to become better stewards of community through love.
It seems that there is an epidemic of “busyness” in our society and our family is no exception. My husband Ron and I both work outside of the home and are gone from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. Our girls are busy with dance, music lessons, taekwondo, and other extracurricular activities which keep our weekday evenings booked up. Add weekend hockey practices and games as well as my ongoing work on my graduate degree into the mix and our weekends are also pretty tightly scheduled. As you can imagine, when we have the opportunity to just sleep in and have a lazy morning at home together we try not to miss the opportunity! This is our crazy, busy, happy life and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. However, this frequently creates challenges in our ability to attend Sunday morning services, and we all miss the opportunity to be with others in our community in a way that nourishes spirituality within ourselves, our own little family, as well as with others.
We do always make time for camp during the summer and my girls both love everything about being out at Hills of Peace Campground and the friendships they have made there. However, camp is only one week a year and the months in between can be a long time to go without seeing their “camp community”. When our Pastor, Doug, shared his idea of Generation Now I was really excited about the prospect! This presented an opportunity for us to help our kids connect with the youth in our church community (as well as other friends) in a way that would still work with the rest of the priorities that our family juggles . . . AND it sounded super FUN!
I agreed to help organize the first event and immediately turned to my 9-year-old, Sophie, for ideas. She had recently been to a “horse party” for a friend’s birthday party and wondered if we could have a horse party for our Generation Now activity. I did a little research and found a local ranch that was more than happy to host a trail ride for a group of kids ages 8 and up, as well as pony rides for younger children.
On the day of the event we had a total of 20 youth and young adults who came out to participate as well as six parents who came along to chaperone/chauffeur. We had seen our first bit of snow for the season earlier in the week, but we were blessed on the day of our ride with a perfect autumn day. The sun was shining as the 11 older kids and four young adults headed off into the foothills for an hour long ride. The rest of the adults stayed back to visit and lead the five younger children on their ponies.
The giggles, teasing, and smiles were awesome to see as I watched the kids interact with each other not only at the ranch but also on the drive to and from. When I asked my twelve-year-old daughter, Abby, if she had a good time she gave me the typical elaborate tween response of “yep”. However, when I nagged her for more details, she finally confirmed what I suspected “the horse ride was fun but what I really liked was just getting to see everybody and hang out with my friends”.
Both of my kids are looking forward to the next event. Ron and I are also looking forward to joining them again as they get out and get active with this amazing group of kids that are part of our spiritual community!
Calgary Spark is a collection of stories told by members and friends of the church alike. Each person's story is helping to shape our community in new ways.