42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
My grandmother’s church always held an annual fish fry. They still do, I hope. Every July they would post signs by the road and little old ladies in polyester pantsuits and nude hose would sell tickets. The same ladies would make pies and brownies and fudge for the bake sale and quilts and pillow shams for the silent auction. Their husbands would make frames and end tables in their wood-working shed, back when people had a place and the time for such things, and they’d auction those off as well.
The day of the fish fry was the hottest of the year, always. But the tables were set up behind the steepled church under big oak trees to give it shade. And a tiny creek, more like a trickle, ran through the center of it all and made is seem cooler. Big fans blew in the multipurpose gym where people entered, handed over a ticket, and then spilled out on the lawn. Inflatables waited for the kids and men passed out double-layered paper plates. The trick was to be first in line for a new batch, so the catfish came out nice and crispy and steaming hot all in the same pile as the hush puppies.
The grown-ups would sit and visit or maybe make a bid or two for the quilt or stitching of a friend. The kids ran wild, like really wild, begging quarters for a third cookie and running through the creek even though all the moms yelled not to. It was lovely in that little church on that one day every July.
I think there’s something to be said for tradition and small communities. I think the early Christians had it right, probably by default (in conflict you pool your resources). They ate and lived and spent time together in ways we don’t seem to do anymore. I attend a church now much younger than my grandmother’s. It’s bigger, in a newer building with newer blood. You should see the nursery; it’s half the population. We are in our nesting period. But I see us making our traditions that will become old-school in their own good time. I like that we take communion from wooden tables at the front in small groups, just ten or so faces lit up by candles for the breaking of bread. It feels special and sacred, as it should. I like that we have community groups that meet during the week in people’s homes for dinner. I like Trunk or Treat at Halloween and the Easter Egg hunt and the kids playing bells on Christmas.
It’s harder now than it used to be to find the small connectedness in things like the early Christians did, like my grandmother’s church did. Harder but not impossible. I believe we can still find our eddies, our little pockets of specialness that make the ordinary sacred. We need more small communal acts in our lives to remind us of the point. Because the point is to hold hands, turn heavenwards, and praise God, whether that be through fried fish or nursery duty or the ringing of bells. We need to lean in to each other if we’re going to make the Christian life more about a building and a day of the week.
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A big thank you from Jamie on The Mom Gene!