Tonight at Wilpshire, we begin a project that April and two church members thought up after hearing the stories that April and I told about church weekly dinners. It has been partly misunderstood by some church members for various reasons that I might get into later. For now, I have been trying to explain the reasoning behind weekly church dinners. My latest Wilpshire Works (our church newsletter) article gives a part of why I think it important for us to eat together as a family.
As the summer draws to a close, our minds turn to the events that take place every time this year. Those with children start getting the kids up early and pack them off to school. Organisations that lay dormant for the summer months kick back into gear. In our house, the fall (autumn) brings a new college football season with the hope that the University of South Carolina will finally have more than a sub-par year. And of course, 1 September gives us a new connexional year. The patterns, rituals, and seasons of the year give us a firm footing in our lives and define who we are.
With the new connexional year beginning, I want to invite you to a new event that I hope will become a part of the pattern of your life. If you were present at the General Church Meeting in July, you heard about T.N.Tea. This will provide an exciting opportunity to allow us as church members to eat with one another as a church family on a regular basis. As I think back to our holiday in the United States, I remember how much we ate. And each time we met with old friends, we usually met to eat! It got me thinking how much our relationships had been formed over family meals – ordinary dinners or big ones, like Thanksgiving. With my friends, it happened at El Rodeo in Durham, NC, or even in the student cafeteria at Duke University. Our friendships were formed over food. This places us in the great tradition that Jesus started in the gospels as he ate with his disciples and people with bad reputations! Christian fellowship over food carried on as we see in Acts, and one of Paul’s biggest gripes with his Corinthian congregations is how they carried on with each other at church dinners! If we took out the references to Christians eating together in the New Testament, we would have very little Bible left, and the rest of it would make little sense. The Holy Spirit has formed very different people into the people of God through eating together. This is what John Wesley would call a ‘means of grace’ where God through the Holy Spirit gives his love to us.
As we seek God’s vision for us as the people called Methodists in Wilpshire, we will be able to hear God more clearly as he draws us together. We become more than people who share a worship space on Sunday mornings, but are formed into the Body of Christ, working for the kingdom as we follow the lead of the Holy Spirit. T.N.Tea begins on 19 September, and I hope to see you there!