Increasingly I find myself mulling over the idea of food in missional communities. As we seek to grow and reach out to those around us the idea of the communal meal is one that grows in me. People like food. Obviously with an awareness that there are many in the world who don't have enough food to survive I am struck that within our western culture food is the best medium for connecting with people.
People aren't impressed by our music, most of it is mediocre and nearly all of it is specifically targeted at a ready made christian audience. I believe in sung worship and enjoy it immensely but our services are not the greatest way to connect with people, they are a great tool for inspiring and teaching those already walking in the faith but not so valid when it comes to reaching out.
On the other hand I look at an initiative like Alpha and see that one of the key factors to it's initial success is food. I was at the 217 boiler room in Essex last week and they did a meal once a week it has become so popular they now have to do it twice a week. It's not always fancy they occasionally do soup weeks. There was an article in the times about students meeting together on Sundays just to cook a big roast dinner. Even if we look at our own family times and festivals they all involve food. I had the joy of celebrating Canadian thanksgiving with the Jones family a few weeks ago and it was a wonderful way of connecting with and getting to know new people around the focus of a meal.
Throughout the summer we invited many people back to our home for meals, workers who did not have a kitchen greatly appreciated a large roast dinner. To put before them a well prepared meal was a joy for us as a community, it felt like an act of worship.
Look at the rise of celebrity chefs, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey to name but a few cooking is popular. Also with the credit crunch starting to bite it is cheaper and easier to eat at home than go out to a restaurant.
So in the birth of new communities the chef will become more important than the musical worship leader. After all a well prepared meal set in front of many people for feasting and fellowship is an act of worship. More emphasis should be put on food within our gatherings. When I led a church in England one of our most successful mornings was when we shut down our main service cooked bacon sandwiches and watched the football world cup, it was a little male dominated and the football helped but bacon sandwiches for me are the way forward.
There is power in food, power in sitting in a circle, power in drinking wine together, power in inviting others in to share what we have prepared.
We welcome others in, they don't feel alienated and unsure of what to do or how to act, food makes people comfortable. Maybe discipleship training schools should do a whole section on cooking?
Bruce is our main worship leader when it comes to cooking.