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Sharing food, basic as it is, has become a strong embodiment of fellowship, selfless giving, and the sharing of blessings.

“Next week is church potluck again! My favorite!” says my 11-year-old son while reading about the upcoming events listed in the church bulletin. He’s a food enthusiast, but interestingly is not a huge fan of eating at buffet restaurants. I think he prefers the celebratory atmosphere at church.

My mother had seven siblings, and every family reunion while I was growing up in China involved a huge meal for over 50 people. I have fond memories of being part of that big, warm family and sharing food together.

Today, my immigrant family does not usually have large gatherings at home. Our children do not have grandparents around when schools host Grand Friends Day. I think this might be why my children are happy to hang out with our large church family, who all bring their well-prepared dishes, especially a wide variety of desserts. My children will chat with their elderly prayer partners, Cadets and GEMS counselors, and youth group teachers.

The church potluck tradition is a hallmark of my own spiritual journey. As an international student studying in a foreign land, there is nothing better than meals prepared by welcoming local friends. It was something to look forward to on a Friday evening. The small Chinese church in upstate New York I regularly visited has faithfully upheld this tradition for over 30 years, reaching hundreds of students with Christian hospitality. Sharing food, basic as it is, has become a strong embodiment of fellowship, selfless giving, and the sharing of blessings.

The early church also had regular potluck meals that evolved into what we know as communion. The church knew that following Jesus by sharing meals with each other is a tangible representation of God’s abundance and generosity. Simply sharing the space of eating nurtures a sense of community and togetherness.

Like these meals of the early church, where the rich and the poor mingled, today’s church potlucks also engage a diverse community. Everyone brings a dish, and no matter how simple or elaborate, that food is an equally delightful gift from God. There were a few times in the past I forgot to bring prepared food and felt hesitant to stay, yet the invitation was always enthusiastic: “There is plenty of food here!” This invitation is just like the words of the psalmist: “Taste and see that the Lord[1] is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8). At this moment, we feel overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for this community.

Church potlucks are a time for being human together. Little kids run around while people line up, chat while waiting, and serve each other. There is a joyful, celebratory spirit in the air. During conversations, we lay bare our human needs and manifest joys. With time, people get familiar with each other’s recipes and recognize which dish is prepared by whom. Families with young children exchange information about fun activities or plan on play dates. I am grateful to God that our kids belong to this extended church family.


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