This week, LDI's Program and Communications Fellow Jesse Ortiz shares their transformative experience of trusting the LDI community to co-create a potluck for our March mid-Formation Program training.
I was walking back to my pew after Eucharist when I pulled out my phone. Instinctively, I opened the popular app MyFitnessPal and searched for “communion” in its directory of food. I found myself choosing between several options: “Communion wafer and wine (5 calories),” “bread for communion (10 calories),” “Communion bread — Eucharist (0 calories).”
Struggling to decide which entry to log, I was overcome with an immense sadness and compassion for the people who originally entered this data into MyFitnessPal. Who would be so obsessive about counting calories that they would denigrate the holy Eucharist? In asking this question, I realized that I was that person. I started to feel sad for myself.
This happened in October, during a Sunday evening service at St. Paul’s in Natick. My sadness towards the people who entered communion calories was a wakeup call — and a message from God. Since then, I’ve been on a journey of self-compassion that has led me to give up counting calories and begin loosening the ways I control my body and food.
After LDI’s January training, Natalie suggested that we skip the caterer next time, and organize a potluck for our March training. As the person in charge of logistics, I felt excited by the opportunity for our participants to co-create an experience, but scared because I didn’t know what to expect. Would people have enough to eat? Would the meal accommodate everyone’s dietary needs? Would anyone even want to help?
At first, I tried to control the potluck and dictate who would bring how much of what. However, as people lagged in their response, it became clear that my “power over” approach wouldn’t work. I had to surrender control, and trust that our participants — and God’s spirit working through them — would provide.
I was not disappointed. People brought quinoa, beans, salad, turkey chili, vegetarian chili, pizza, baked potatoes, bread, and lots of other food — more than I can even remember. Yes, we probably had a few dishes too many (and nobody brought dessert), but I was so impressed that our participants stepped up to provide for our community.
Several people joked that the March 11th potluck was a “loaves and fishes moment.” For me, seeing how people showed up was nothing short of miraculous. The meal was one indication that if I cede control and have trust in my community, God will prove that we have all we need.
How can the Church more fully live into our own resources? This question has big implications. When we impose ourselves on other people’s communities through colonialism and gentrification, what are we saying about our — and God’s — ability to nurture us? When we exploit other people’s labor, what are we saying about how we value ourselves? Once we recognize the great abundance always present in our communities, we can address our needs without controlling and oppressing other people. Maybe we’ll even end up with abundance.