This month’s Pasadena Community Supper Club dinner could not have felt more different from September’s. (Even the header photo in this post is a change up from the usual low-rent Instagram slideshow I’m normally forcing on you.) You would have been justified in reading a sense of - not frustration, but certainly straining - into September’s post-event recap. I was feeling it. Largely it was self-imposed, given that I insisted on presenting a meal that required multiple days of rather involved preparation. Don’t get me wrong - it turned out well. But this month, things had to change, for the better. I think they did.
To be clear, I am not talking about a sacrifice of principle. We’re not casting aside the whole “Golden Rule of Food” thing in favor of expediency or leisure. We must, however, ensure this project is sustainable. It required a re-evaluation of the type of food we serve to our neighbors at Centennial Place in light of a realistic assessment of what we actually do serve to ourselves in our homes. For example, at this month’s dinner Brooks prepared and we served Pumpkin Chicken Chili. It was delicious, received many compliments, and much-deserved requests for seconds and thirds. We also served cornbread. Now I have, on more than one occasion, made cornbread from scratch. It’s delicious, in case you are wondering. But that’s the exception, rather than the rule. On any given night, if I’m making chili, I’m also mixing up a box of Trader Joe’s cornbread and popping it in the oven. (If you’re a Jiffy person, no judgment, but TJ’s has corn in the mix. Nostalgic branding doesn’t really make up for that.) So, when it came time to make 100 servings of cornbread, I turned to what I know and love. It didn’t let us down.
That’s what we’re after. Good food - actually really good food - the kind that, after a long day of working, studying, running around, etc., it’s actually possible to put together with limited time and energy and still have turn out well. Brooks helped prove that concept for us, and, as usual, I’m grateful for him. Now, we have to repeat according to this new standard.
With that, I’m going to move on from discussion of the food. I’ve been focusing on that a lot recently. Actually, food is literally all I do now - if I’m not actively cooking, then I’m chopping something for the next day, or washing dishes, or shopping for ingredients. “Be careful what you pray for,” that’s all I’ve got to say. I’ve told plenty of people recently that I don’t really know where I wanted PCSC to go, but I knew I wanted to work with food and to help people in need. Well...I’m getting to work with food plenty now, and the path gets a little clearer each day of how that might lead to helping people in unexpected ways.
This month’s service was led by Pastor Len Tang and group of volunteers from Missio Community Church. They came though big time. It’s been a surprising and somewhat disheartening struggle to get local churches on board for this. Other than Dan and our friends from Rose City Church who hosted the inaugural service, we’d gone 0 for 2 on new church partners. (Though that’s had its upsides as well, giving Teesha and our friend Ines the chance to share their pastoral gifts with the community at Centennial.) So, it was encouraging that Len and Missio showed up and supported so enthusiastically. All told, we had almost 20 volunteers on Sunday, over half of which were first-timers. With that many people serving, there was ample opportunity for other volunteers to do what we always say we want to more of - sit down, enjoy a meal, and talk with people. I truly could not be more pleased to report that I saw six or so volunteers who never served a single plate of food. They just talked with people the entire evening. Very, very cool. I hope we can do more of that.
A few highlights to share:
First, we took an important step in involving our neighbors at Centennial into the production of the service itself. One resident, Natasha, read our scripture passage prior to Len’s sermon. Well be doing more of this type of thing in the coming months.
Second, a gentleman (whose name escapes me at this writing) asked if he could get an extra copy of the bulletins we print for each month’s service, which contains the scripture reference, the song lyrics, and our prayers. Why did he want an extra copy? For the past few months he has used that sheet of paper - in the margins of it, I assume - to write a letter to his mother, and to share about what he heard at our services. How cool is that?
Finally, Tom - who never lacks something to say - gave us a great idea and something to reflect on. He told a group of us toward the end of the evening, “You know, you all should come do this more often. You don’t even have to bring food, just come and talk.” Tom has a sneaky sense of humor, but I don’t think this was a dig at the food. (Though I give him credit if it was…) He just wants to be with us. Kinda lends some perspective, doesn’t it? Does for me, at least.
Sunday’s dinner was at the end of a long string work and events, all of which I detailed here. This week is proving even busier. Still, I feel energized by what we heard and saw on Sunday. There is so much to be uncertain about right now in the world and, more specifically, in our country. We have an election coming up in a week. We have shootings at synagogues. Somewhere several thousand miles south of where I am right now a “caravan” of people are walking slowly north, unsure of what reception they’ll receive at the border. All of that is out my control. Unless I’m drastically underestimating the reach of this writing, and my readership contains some very influential people, then those things and much else are out of your control as well. But not all is lost. There are little glimmers of goodness and hope available to us when, for instance, we take a couple of hours out of our busy week to put a plate of food in front of someone who hasn’t had much else to look forward to recently. We did that on Sunday. I have to believe it mattered.
P.S. I would like to thank our donors for their continued, faithful service from afar. Special thanks this month to Leyna & Ryan, and my friend and former colleague (in that order) Bill and his family. Grateful to each and every one of them for their support.