by Rev. Dale Azevedo, Sr. Minister

I’ve spent much of the afternoon today wrestling with what to write for this week’s blog. One thought that gained prominence was “Keep hope alive!” I couldn’t initially place the origins of this quote, but it resonated with me. It seems an appropriate response given the state of our world and nation. There are definitely days I feel hopeless, or at the very least, hope deprived. But that sounded a bit too down for today. Digging a little deeper into the origins of that quote brought me to Jesse Jackson and his failed second bid for the US presidency in 1988. Yeah, I am not going there today.

A bit later, after discounting a few other potential blog themes, my mind was pierced with an odd realization: I want a potluck supper. I want a potluck supper? What is that all about? Do I really want a potluck supper or a church dinner? I was immediately brought back to memories of church dinners at BCCUCC before the pandemic, back when we would gather in fellowship hall with 100-200 people and have a wonderful pasta (or some other comfort-food) dinner. (Recollections of the “community plant-based dinner” don’t bring to light such warm feelings, though.)

I wasn’t quite sure why this thought was coming to me today. Do I even like potluck meals or church dinners? My introverted side has always railed against the idea of getting up and going out to join folks at church for a meal. Can’t I just stay home and sit by myself or enjoy a calm quiet meal with my family?

Yet, thumbing its nose at this introverted reaction is the other part of me that recalls enjoying the company of “strangers”, of sitting around a table with folks I rarely, if ever, eat with and sharing in conversation on topics I otherwise would likely never engage. There was something about being “community”, about “belonging”, about learning something more about my church family that brought out the warm fuzzy feelings in me.

Some nostalgic part of me is missing that experience. That’s part of the reason I jumped on the chance with Andrea and Racquel to hold a picnic after church on Jubilation Sunday. But that one experience, that one Sunday late morning after church, didn’t cut it. Apparently, I’m still craving something that a potluck supper represents.

That’s when I realized that this idea of a potluck supper must be something more for me. I can remember being a small child and visiting my grandparents in Nova Scotia. One of my grandfather’s favorite pastimes was attending church socials, church dinners. It didn’t matter where the dinner was or what church was hosting it, it seemed that he always packed us all into the old Lincoln Continental and drove for hours just to find the perfect strawberry shortcake dinner held by some church. This really must have messed with my introverted side as I truly was eating with countless strangers (in a foreign country no less)! I do have to admit, though, that we had some pretty good strawberry shortcake!

I think part of the lure of the vaunted potluck or church supper is the nostalgic value. It reminds me of simpler times. It reminds of the church pre-pandemic. It reminds me of my early days in ministry where I, as the new young minister, would move from table to table greeting guests and sitting down for a brief chat and welcome strangers to our church. It reminds of bringing Seth (now 23) as a toddler to the “ladies’ luncheon” where everyone was his grandmother and told him he didn’t need to eat his vegetables before starting into dessert. And he was so innocent and cute…and I wasn’t so far off myself.

Right now, after 30 years in the pulpit, church seems so complicated. Church is about budgets, and meetings, and policies. We worry about active shooters and livestreaming and safe church policies and social justice issues. I miss the “romanticized” old days when church was seemingly about community and connection.

But I cannot pretend that everything was easier or better in the “old days.” In my last church we had years where the treasurer would email me every Monday with the offering numbers from the Sunday before and, together, we would decide which bills would get paid and which we would allow to go to collection. Again, just a few years out of seminary, my closest classmate ran off with his organist while his wife was expecting their 3rd child. He was defrocked (and rightly so). And later, one of the local colleagues who I worked very closely with, took his own life after he was confronted by the state police with accusations of sexual misconduct with minors. The “old days” were not necessarily better days.

But saying that, I’m still longing for a potluck supper. I think I’m longing for connection. I’m longing to sit down with you, members of my flock (I hope that isn’t too pretentious), and share in a common meal. To break bread together. And laugh together. And cry together. And reminisce together. And dream together. And be the church together.

Do you miss that? Are you looking for that? If so, perhaps we can schedule a potluck supper sometime soon? Maybe in late June or July? I’d really like some deviled eggs or a nice casserole. But what I’d really like is your company and your connection. What do you think? Shall we do it? Let me know…