I mentioned in a previous blog that I have been spending some time this summer revisiting good books on my shelves …the ones I couldn’t quite give away (yet) and that I thought might deserve a new reading. One of those books is a lovely volume of short essays that relate the importance of community, sharing, and the filling and emptying of ourselves – through a small Nashville church’s potlucks.
Artist and writer Kim Thomas relates the potluck gatherings at Village Chapel in the Hillsboro neighborhood of Nashville, where her husband serves as pastor. Reminding people that “Cheetos are not considered a side dish” she relates the evening of the first potluck:
Generations of potluckers had gone before us, and this night, through our first-time potluck sacrament, it felt as if we officially became a church. Each bringing something, each taking something, and in the process becoming a community.
She writes about members of their church and their contributions to potlucks and how this identifies spiritual themes. I think of her story about James, who brings a pot of citrus beets and explains that he likes to work with “forgotten vegetables” and then is discovered engaging an individual who also seems a bit forgotten. I love the term “forgotten vegetables” although in my case there are a few that might more likely be known more for their intentional neglect! She writes about her dear friend Carm who brings Portuguese chicken soup, which “nurtured our souls and warmed our bellies” and how around these meals, community forms, prayer needs and tears are mingled, and in the final line of the chapter, she writes:
We came with full dishes and nearly empty souls and left with empty dishes and near-full souls. As always, Carm was an agent of mercy that evening, gathering us in from the cold. Soup was just her cover.
The book is a small one, but quite lovely. Each chapter concludes with the recipes that are mentioned in the preceding essay. I haven’t tried them yet (although some look quite interesting) but think that perhaps I should start with James’ citrus beets.
Thomas, Kim. Potluck: Parables of Giving, Taking, and Belonging. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press/Random House, 2006. (This book is available in Link+ and I am donating my copy, so it should be in our collections shortly).