This is what church bulletin announcements usually say. This or that event is happening – please bring a plate!
And this is what we are saying about this coming Sunday (11September). Straight after the service, from 11am, we are having High Tea in the manse garden to celebrate the start of spring together. It looks like the weather will be lovely – no rain and a top of 16 degrees – so please come along and please bring a plate!
Bring a plate is church-speak (or perhaps its usage goes wider) for asking everyone who is coming to an event to contribute something to that event.
We should always be a little careful of church-speak or other forms of Christian jargon. Are we intentionally or unintentionally creating barriers for people with less power in our group (those who are new to faith, those who are young, those who may come from other cultural backgrounds)?
We should also be careful of the assumptions underlying our language. Is ‘bring a plate’ heard equally by men and women? Or is our underlying assumption that women will hear this and act on it – while men do not need to listen? Is ‘bring a plate’ heard in the same way by people who have the resources to purchase food for others as those who do not?
What ‘bring a plate’ celebrates, however, is that we are a community where everyone is invited to contribute – to bring something of their unique selves – to our common task of building a caring, inclusive community.
I am speaking about more than the High Tea this coming Sunday now! 😊 I am speaking about the Listening, Learning, Listing process we are currently working through as a church – and about everything we bring to our common life; our gifts, abilities, compassion, energy, prayerfulness, physical presence, financial resources, years of experience and willingness to be led by the Spirit in new directions. We want this to be a church where all are welcome and encouraged and empowered to bring themselves to the work of being church together.
I was speaking with Sue Williams recently about a meeting at the new Baptist Care village she’s moved into where they invited to discuss any issues or concerns. “I think we should also be more positive!” was Sue’s response. “I think we should also be asked what we like about this place!” I agreed, but said, “Maybe, too, like the Listening, Learning and Listing process we’re doing at church, you should also be asked, ‘What can each one of you going to bring to this community – to make it a good community?’”
That’s what we are asking. Not what’s wrong with church. Or even – what’s right about church! But what can each one of us bring to this church to make it a place where people can explore what it means to follow Jesus, where people can find inclusive, caring community, where people experience God’s love and justice in our – very unique to us! – words and actions.
So, please bring a plate (or just a packet of chips or a bottle of drink) to the High Tea this Sunday. Everything is welcome! And please bring yourselves to our shared task of being the church. Everyone is welcome!
PS Speaking of plates, I am very much hoping there will cake on Sandra Trimble’s plate this Saturday when she celebrates her 80th birthday! Happy Birthday, Sandra!
PPS If you want to stay for lunch this Sunday you are also welcome! Aron will eventually get the BBQ out and start cooking sausages!