“The only binary is life and death. Everything in between is a potluck supper.”
– Edward Lee, Buttermilk Graffiti
One image I associate with my ministry is food. I believe that churches have a mission to feed people: feed people who hunger for justice and peace, feed people who hunger for spiritual sustenance, feed people who hunger for ideas and meaning in their lives, feed people who hunger for bread and other material necessities.
Some traditional churches insist that the whole point of a church is to serve a meal exactly like one which was prepared 2,000 years ago. Other groups, such as the Catholic Worker Movement, insist no one should be allowed any dessert until everyone has had their soup. The Unitarian Universalist Church is more like a potluck supper.
On any given night some members are ready for meat and potatoes. Others want uncooked vegan fare with sun-brewed herbal tea, some may need to fast. I celebrate our diversity. I see the minister encouraging people to try dishes other than the ones they brought themselves, and making sure that everyone is fed. This includes concern for those outside the congregation.
In a world where people go hungry, ministers are called to commit themselves to social change. It is a minister’s task to be a voice for the voiceless, to encourage good public works, and to point out the consequences of individual and corporate irresponsibility.
The minister also serves as an organizer and administrator. Washing the dishes and scouring the oven is not usually the enjoyable part of a feast. Still, a well ordered kitchen, with a full flour barrel and straight rows of spices lining the shelves is a joy and a promise of good things to come.
A minister serves as master of the tea ceremony, as a leader of rituals and rites of passage. A minister is one who handles sacred objects in such a way as to reveal their sacredness to others. However, in our religion it is not objects, but human beings that are of supreme importance. Our rituals should be quick to exalt this truth.
Another role of a minister is that of scholar or keeper of the cookbooks. It is the privilege of the minister to engage with others in tasting together some of the best creations of the past master chefs: Rumi, Sappho, William Ellery Channing, J.S. Bach, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, James Luther Adams, Fats Waller, Mary Oliver. Even more exciting, we are charged with experimenting with new fusions of flavors that are only now emerging.
The ingredients which I most enjoy cooking with are: tomatoes and carrots, love and anger, green peppers and corn meal, cheerfulness and spontaneity, flour (whole wheat, almond, chick pea, I haven’t tried acorn flour yet, but it’s on my list), honey, tenderness, compassion, high energy, cinnamon and pennyroyal, honesty and courtesy, pumpkin seeds, scallions, and Tabasco sauce, openness and magnanimity, root beer extract and chocolate chips, forgiveness, butter and again love. Love over and over again.