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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, February 17, 2004
    On eating together
    Got into a nice topic via Maggi's blog: the value of eating together regularly. It comes out of her reading of Ian Bradley's Colonies of Heaven in which, from the little we really know about the 'Celtic' church, he teases out some models which might enrich our life on the way today:

    "[An] effective way of fostering a sense of shared spirituality and commitment is through people regularly eating together," he writes.

    I relate to that: (a) because Jesus seemed to be doing that all the time; (b) because if there's a free lunch going, as a single bloke with little interest in cooking, I'm there; and (c) because in my humble but varied experience Christian 'community' has worked well where people have eaten together regularly.

    Made me think about those times and places where eating together often with others has enriched my life....

    My Nan's kitchen, the hub of our family life as a child into teenage, where popping in brought me beans-on-toast and the chance to catch up with everybody's news;

    Lunchtimes at The Ranch, an outdoor pursuits centre where I lived and worked for a year 1982/3. After a good feed one of our live-in community would give a five-minute talk; I loved these 'Lunchtime Messages' which sustained and connected us (and boy, we needed that, in that pressure-cooker environment);

    Student Sunday lunches, in the homes of kind church families in Cardiff. I entered student life disillusioned with and disconnected from church, so the hospitality of virtual strangers impacted deeply on me. As did the difference between a lonely snack in halls and a steaming roast dinner with a room of friendly folk;

    Pub lunches with friends, whilst unemployed. With shop manager Dave on a two-hour break in The Grapes, Mathew Street (toilet sign: "John Lennon peed here"), or with fellow-doleites at The Nags Head, Thornton. Small talk, valuable friendships and laughter in days of fear and shame;

    Evening meals in Dingle, inner-city Liverpool, with friends with whom I shared a common table most nights of the week when I lived around the corner from them. Bradley writes of a "sense of common purpose and identity" fostered by such mealtime gatherings. It's true. What we had then still sustains us, eight years on. It's been a little while, but I'm round at theirs again tonight.