On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, our church offers a short service followed by potluck dinner. Attendance usually is small, between 5 and 20 people. In order to get there on time, I have to rush from work to pick up my five-year-old son Nicholas from his preschool and trust that the two buses we need to take will be running on time. In order to contribute food to the meal, I have to either carry it with me to work and then to church, arrange for my partner Daniel to meet us at church and bring the food with him, or drop off the food at church on my way to work in the morning. Sounds like a lot of stress for something insignificant, doesn’t it?
Yet the Tuesday Potlucks have become an important feature of our spiritual and family lives since they started two years ago. I wish we had one every week!
First, the “extra” worship and Communion during the week gives me a little boost of peace and gratitude just when I need it most. I love my job, but I’m not so good at working full-time and tend to get all stressed-out by my schedule and to focus on all those things Jesus said not to worry about and to forget all the techniques for tapping into God that I could use on my own. A structured church service helps me get my head on straight again! Tuesday night is perfect because two days after Sunday is just about the time I start to feel crazed, but the weekend still seems far away.
Speaking of not worrying about what we will eat, the potluck takes care of our dinner plans! It’s really only because of the dinner that we’re able to attend church on a weeknight. Making the food we’ll bring to the potluck takes only as much of Daniel’s or my time as making that one dish to eat at home, and then we get to eat from a buffet of other dishes in addition to ours. (In a really hectic week, we can buy a ready-to-serve food!) We also have the option of making that food anytime Monday evening, instead of making it for dinner at the end of a workday when we are hungry and tired.
Everyone pitches in to set up the table and chairs, get the dishes and utensils and napkins, fill the water glasses, and after the meal wash the dishes and put everything away. My part in it is no more time or effort than I would put into the set-up and clean-up of a meal at home–but the time does double duty because I am chatting with friends while working!
One of the best things about Tuesday Potlucks is the lack of expectations. Our pastor will be there or arrange for a substitute; everyone else can come or not. There are a few people in addition to my family who are there almost every time, but other members of the church turn up only a few times a year, and occasionally someone we never saw before will attend. Each family brings what they feel like bringing, yet somehow we almost always wind up with at least one each of appetizer, salad, main dish, and dessert. We never know just who will be at the table or what we’ll be eating. It doesn’t matter. We are together, and we are fed.
I guess it’s kind of like a family get-together in the type of extended family that lives in many households near each other. I’ve never had that kind of family, never lived less than 40 miles from the nearest non-household relative, so I wouldn’t know! But it’s a gathering of people of various generations and careers, who might not hang out together otherwise. It’s interesting to see what we find to talk about and what we can learn from each other. (Last night, a college student commented that she’d never even heard of lentils before she met me! ) For Nicholas, it’s completely normal to have dinner with this motley assortment of adults, just as his peers with local extended families may be accustomed to having Tuesday dinner at Grandma’s with whichever uncles show up.
Because there are three of us and many of the other attendees live alone, they often give us some of the leftovers of their potluck offerings. Last night we brought home hummus and cookies. With evening events today and tomorrow and no time to cook, we’ll appreciate those leftovers and think fondly of the people who made them, and the potluck spirit will last all week! Despite the effort and hassle of preparing for the potluck and getting there on time, we get out of it more than we put in.
Tuesday Potlucks work for me! Although today’s Works-for-Me Wednesday is the “Mom, I’m bored!” edition with tips for keeping kids busy in the summer, I’m going to link up anyway. If your kids are bored this summer, why not coordinate a weekly potluck with other families? I bet potlucks will be as lucky for you as they have been for us!
UPDATE: In 2012, we stopped having the weeknight service and potluck because attendance had declined. We hope to start it again someday!