This has been Garry's week for fellowship meals. My current total stands at three for the week, and it's only Saturday night. If you count supper after church tomorrow night I'll hit four.Firstly, for those not up on the jargon, when Christians get together socially without actually intending to do anything spiritual or religious, we like to call it a fellowship meal, to make it sound like something spiritual or religious. "We're going to get together for a fellowship meal" sounds so much more righteous than "we're going to hang out and eat some chicken". Pretentious? Maybe. But it's music to the ears of a young single church goer who can't cook.
Or so I thought. You see, my mental picture of a fellowship meal from my upbringing is of the bring-and-share dinners we used to chuck back at Darwin Uniting. Basically every family would bring a meal of some sort, enough to feed a few people and then we'd all share the food, so there was enough for everyone. Of course there were always the middle-aged to elderly women who were either extremely enthusiastic or misunderstood the concept slightly or wanted to outdo the other middle-aged to elderly women, and would each bring enough to feed everyone in the room twice. Picture a row of tables straining under the weight of every variation of chicken casserole you can imagine, plus fourteen different pasta salads, three giant pots of white rice and a then about five plates of quiche and you've got something like the image that comes to me when I think of fellowship dinners.
It seems to work differently in Sydney. They put on a dinner before a prayer meeting the other night at one of the churches I'm going to at the moment (fellowship meal number 1). While the opportunity to get together and share a meal was cool, the basic format surprised me enough to set me off on a rant (you are currently reading it).
Rather than having everyone bring something, the whole thing was organised by a small and extremely dedicated fellowship dinner committee or something like that. The rest of us rolled up, payed $5 (what?) and were issued with a quiche and a portion of salad. I don't want to sound ungrateful. The quiche was great and the salad was… well it was a salad. How do you even describe those things? Green?
Anyway, the point is the whole thing felt less like a joyful sharing of our resources and culinary skills and more like we were receiving battle rations before heading out to the prayer meeting. I realise the more charismatic amongst you might think that quite an appropriate analogy, but I wanted my casseroles damnit! Oh well…
Meal number two was a 'blokes breakfast' this morning for the male members of my bible study group. This was nice, and the guys (and gals) in my group are all really cool, so hanging out with them was a great idea. But come on... meeting up for breakfast? This is Saturday we're talking about here. I have enough trouble getting up for breakfast, let alone getting up, going out, catching a train and meeting up for breakfast. Of course, now I'm just whinging because I can. I really enjoyed having breakfast with them once I eventually got there.
Fellowship meal number three this week was the regular monthly Courtyard Café event that gets run at Chatswood South Uniting. I was looking forward to this one because the organisers had brought a band in as usual, but the band members were parents of a small child who had to be taken home early, so they asked me to fill in with some music for the last hour or so. I was stoked because I haven't really had a chance to do any real solo performance (worship doesn't count) since I left Darwin which was a while ago now.
Unfortunately the organisers neglected to mention that between the first band and my set there was a half-hour presentation from someone looking to raise money in a Christmas appeal for victims of AIDS. It's a great idea, but you've never seen anyone clear a room more efficiently than someone who is asking for money for charity. By the time I got set up and ready to start, the room had three people in it other than me. One of them was only there because he had been asked to draw some sketches of the evening. I got about three songs into the set and was told they were shutting up shop. So I went off to the room where they were playing board games instead. Oh well, I might get a proper go at it next year. Whatever.
So despite all the fellowshipping I've been doing, I still have yet to partake of a convincing fellowship meal. To top it all off, since I've been writing about it, now I feel like eating a chicken casserole. But I don't own a casserole dish. And I don't have any chicken. And how do you make a casserole anyway? Probably just as well it wasn't bring and share, I guess...
Far from home
Garry with 2 Rs