The story is told of an elementary school teacher who, while teaching about world religions, asked her students to bring a symbol of their family’s faith to class. The next day, she asked each student to come forward and shared their symbol with the class.
The first child, a pretty pigtailed girl, proudly stepped to the front of the room and said, “I’m Roman Catholic and this is my mother’s rosary.”
A bashful boy stepped up and said, “I’m Muslim and this is my prayer rug.”
Next up was a sweet young lady who stated, “I’m Jewish and this is my family’s menorah.”
Another girl stood before the class with a smile and exclaimed, “I’m Greek Orthodox and this is an icon of my patron saint.”
Finally, a blue-eyed boy stepped up and said, “I’m Baptist and this is my casserole dish.”
The casserole dish is not limited to Baptists, of course, as breaking bread together is a popular custom in many churches.
In fact, I believe some of the best places to eat in our country are church fellowship halls.
This topic is front-of-mind because our congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary on a recent Sunday with a potluck dinner. The church provided hamburgers, hot dogs and celebratory cake and congregants brought the rest — salads and hot dishes of all varieties.
As I’ve gotten older I have become less comfortable in busy crowds, but I have to tell you I ate well at that potluck.
I remember, of course, church potlucks and dinners when I was a child. After I left home and began attending church with my fiancée I discovered her church, too, ate well. When we moved to Sioux City I wondered if city churches had good potlucks and dinners and was pleasantly surprised to discover they did.
When I lived in Southwest Iowa I found myself speaking at Mother-Daughter, Father-Son and similar banquets and happily discovered that churches in that quadrant of our state ate well also.
I recall a speaking at a Father-Son event at a church in Bedford nearly 30 years ago. The meal was prepared by the women of the church and it was wonderful. I’m a large person and when a couple of the older ladies saw me I think they thought they had hit the jackpot in a champion eater. I eat lightly before speaking and felt bad declining additional servings of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and more.
Some 20 years ago I spoke at a church in Lenox for the Women’s World Day of Prayer. The pre-program meal was a salad luncheon, including many of my favorites – salads with whipped cream and marshmallows. (Someone even brought a Snicker’s salad!) Again I ate cautiously but I would love to have come back for supper.
That was the event where, at the end of the service, I stood at the back of the church and shook hands with the attendees as they left. The women were kind and thanked me for speaking. A dear elderly woman who was barely five-feet tall shook my hand heartily and shouted, “You sure talk loud!” I was pleased that she had heard me.
When working for The Salvation Army I spoke at churches of many denominations. I remember a women’s event at a Lutheran church in West Des Moines. It was a five-course dessert meal. Every course was a dessert prepared by the women at each table. The nice ladies at my table welcomed me just as I was, but I would have worn high-heeled shoes to partake of that meal.
It has been said that an army marches on its stomach. That is certainly true of The Salvation Army which, in addition to its many social outreaches, is a church. While I can’t blame my employer for all of it, I gained weight during the seven years I was employed by The Salvation Army. Many of the Corps (the local operating units of The Salvation Army) are equipped with commercial kitchens used to serve the public in a variety of circumstances. I just happened to be around for some of those circumstances.
When I reflect on church potlucks I think of the “blooper” in the church bulletin which read, “Potluck dinner Thursday night. Prayer and medication to follow.”