Sunday Lunch is Ministry

Sunday Lunch is Ministry

Written by T. M. Suffield |
Sunday, January 30, 2022

Look for the person on the edge who doesn’t get included, have them around your table. Look for the person who is very much ‘in’ but gets overlooked, have them around your table. Look for the person who hosts all the time but never gets invited elsewhere, have them around your table. Look at your pastor and their family—have them around your table.

What do you do when you need to cook for 30 people for a Sunday lunch? In our house, you get the cauldron out.

Before you start reading out Macbeth and building a pyre, it’s a large steel preserving pan that the group of students from our church we feed most weeks have dubbed ‘the cauldron’. Or maybe you got stuck in the previous sentence, because cooking for 30 people for lunch after church is alien, or superhuman, or unimaginable. I get that.

This wasn’t a normal Sunday for us, we’re in a church near one of the University campuses and about a third of our church is students. At the start of term in a September we, like most churches near a University, host groups of new first year students in a number of homes. We were hosting a student lunch that week and for one reason or another the other homes that students were going to were unable to have them, so we were catering for an unknown number of students, hence the many pots of cassoulet bubbling on the hob.

Helen, my wife, is an excellent cook and more importantly actively enjoys feeding people. She’s in her element with the challenge of figuring out how to stretch our food to go further. She’s also never knowingly under-catered so on this occasion cooked for 45. Go big or go home, I say.

We had 19 students that week, which meant it also fed our mid-week group, and a family in the church whose kitchen was out of action, and another family the following Sunday, with some spare to go in the freezer for one of those days your home fills with hungry people you weren’t expecting.

I don’t expect everyone to do what we did that day, or to have the space in your home to even make it possible. Those mass groups aren’t my favourite anyway, I’d much prefer 6 or 8 sat around one table enjoying each other’s company and perhaps a bottle of wine. But the principle should be a lot more normal than it is.

I’d like to reframe two things as normal that are less normal in Christian culture than they should be:

Adding an extra mouth to a meal should be a skill we learn.

You meet someone at church that week who’s new and want to invite them back for food to get to know them a bit better? That’s difficult unless you’ve either cooked for a bigger number of people deliberately, which is a wonderful thing to do but does tend to leave you with a lot of leftovers, or you’ve learned how to stretch a meal.

We feed our ‘Life Group’ every week, which I think is how this sort of thing works best, they’re mostly students or new graduates. We have at times had some lads who can really put it away—the sort of thing where you wonder if they are intending to eat again that week.

Regularly feeding large groups can get expensive if you just multiply up what you might cook for two of you, so you have to approach the meals a little differently.

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