“There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” — M.F.K. Fisher
In the dreaming and planning stage of Inland Church, we thought long and hard about most aspects of what it means to start a church. Would we meet in the morning or evening? Would we have small groups based around affinities or something more topical? Would we have a gathering space or meet in homes and backyards? Would we boast in a comprehensive understanding of the Trinity or choose, “No comment?”
One thing that we did not have to think very hard about was whether or not we wanted to eat together and eat together often. We knew of the formative opportunities surrounding eating together and we wanted to take advantage.
And so from day one, we made eating together a priority of our gatherings. Almost every corporate gathering that we have, we begin by having a potluck meal. But early on, we ran into some difficulties.
Some weeks, there wasn’t very much food. So, we decided to say that the purpose of our eating together wasn’t to fill your stomach but to sit down and share in something together, 1 Corinthians 11 style.
Then, people began complaining about having to prepare something to bring every week. So, we began to talk about the fun task of dealing with the selfish yuck within our hearts and what sacrifice can look like.
Then, the stomach aches began…literally. We ran into some problems with food safety, so we got some hot plates and encouraged people to use safe food handling practices when cooking. Nobody died so we dodged a bullet on that one.
Then, the stomach aches continued. Having a free-for-all potluck meant that some weeks, you could enjoy a spinach and gruyere quiche, canned refried beans, homemade meat lasagna, and Oreos. And to wash it all down, a cup of coffee, because you know, we’re a church. Needless to say, this didn’t always sit well. So we created themed-potlucks to bring a little unity to our meals.
But when everything goes right, and even when it doesn’t, if you were to walk into our gathering space on any given Sunday night, what you would see is simply beautiful.
A stay-at-home dad sitting across from a ex-felon…a family living on welfare sitting across from a young bible student…an engineer sitting across from a person that’s homeless…all sharing in something together.
In the young life of Inland Church, eating together has probably been our most formative practice. It has broken down social barriers in ways that nothing else could. It has created a common table where all are welcome. It displays that we are all needy and that we all have something to give. It has shaped us in ways that no sermon, prayer, or song could have ever done.
When people hear about Inland Church and come to learn that we eat together every week, they may think of us as a “dinner church” or something along those lines. But to us, we are simply Inland Church…a diverse and eclectic bunch of misfits that need each other and the love of God…and we like to eat together, even when it means a stomach ache later.
written by Michael Mills, Pastor of Inland Church in Spokane, Washington.