As a child growing up in the south, I understood that when large groups of people got together, two things always happened: they talked really loud and all at once, and there were always massive amounts of food.
It was automatically understood that the family would go to Ma’s house on all holidays, not just Christmas and Easter, but the minor holidays as well. And the entire family came. There wasn’t anyone who made the phone calls or organized anything. If it was a holiday, we met at my grandmother’s house, all of us, and we brought food. In a world without computers or cell phones, it came together like clockwork, every time. My cousins and I ran outside and played until we were out of breath, while our parents caught up on one another’s lives and shared laughter as they cooked and prepared a huge meal, and then continued the fellowship afterward as they cleaned my grandmother’s kitchen. I loved holidays. They taught me what it meant to go “home.”
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.
Churches were the same way. Several times a month, we had “dinner on the ground.” (We didn’t really eat on the ground, but we did eat outside a lot!) Potlucks were called at the drop of a hat, and everyone from the church and many from the community attended. We played softball, shot hoops, jumped rope, and played chase, all while being served the best fried chicken and yeast rolls good southern women could cook. There is no pie like the pie at a church potluck.
As a child, I didn’t understand then that what was taking place was the formation of community. I just knew that when we were all together, life felt right. I heard the adults get in heated arguments over politics, or horseshoes, but I saw them sit down together ten minutes later and join in singing a hymn. I understood that we didn’t have to agree to be a family. And I knew that two weeks later we would be gathering together again.
24 There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God;
We don’t fellowship anymore. We meet, we organize, and we plan, but we don’t fellowship. Maybe that’s why we see each other as competition, and even the enemy, rather than part of a larger connected group. We are obviously missing something here. We have lost the art of gathering.
We stopped having yards full of children chasing lightening bugs and giggling until dark. We stopped hanging out in one another’s kitchens and having our discussions over coffee on the porch. Now we send pictures of our kids to each other on Instagram and argue over politics on Facebook. There is no community in that.
I have figured it out. What the world is really lacking are huge gatherings on a regular basis with lots of food.
What we really need are a lot more potlucks.
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.