I have memories of my mother (born in 1926) telling me about her own mother going to a neighbours to borrow a cup of sugar when times were a little hard as the weekly wage hadn’t quite stretched to the next pay day.
Borrowing from neighbours was once a commonplace practice, part of life and the intertwined relations we once had with those who lived within what we considered to be our ‘neighbours’. We often view ‘not knowing who our neighbours are’ as a fairly recent phenomenon but in fact we need to look back a lot further to the industrial revolution which heralded the start affordable modern technology-with its quick transportation and the emergence of the grocery store – acquiring kitchen supplies was a less frequent and seen as a much more individualistic affair.
In times past, hunting, gathering, and foraging were communal activities with the resources gathered not just to those who actively sourced and dealt with the preparation for use of/consumption of these products, but also to provide for all within the community. It is still in recent memory of course that many communities, especially rural ones, still relied on weekly markets, travelling salesmen, and the growing of their own goods. But living in relative isolation also meant more contact with your neighbours because one of them probably provided your weekly dairy needs and another milled wheat for flour or grew pears you exchanged for apples.
Advances in technology, while bringing more ‘freedom of choice of what we can do with our time, have erased many food-based reasons for interaction with our neighbours. In fact, in pre-modern Europe, food and cooking brought neighbours together by necessity; many homes had no ovens or only small hearths that were not big enough for bread baking and simultaneous cooking. (If you think having four stovetop burners, a microwave, a toaster, and an oven isn’t a luxury, imagine just one heat source for all your cooking-and bathing-needs). Many communities relied on communal ovens and neighbours regularly left their breads or stews to cook over several hours or even overnight. Traces of this practice still exist in North Africa, Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere.
The rise of cities meant easier access to supplies, but neighbours still lived in close quarters-that there was a constant exchange of goods and services across the yard or through criss-crossing streets. The era of knocking on a door and asking for that extra cup of sugar or dolling out surplus tomatoes from an abundant crop were part of the rhythms of life.
The way, in which houses are positioned relative to each other and our reliance on modern technology, most of us no longer need to interact with our neighbours to source ingredients or cook our food.
The realisation that people rarely interact with others outside their family within a community coupled with looking for new ways for St David’s Church to offer hospitality (from the Latin hospitalis – friendliness to guests, to provide opportunity to engage with others) we extend an invitation to everyone to come along and participate in Messy Church.
Messy Church wants to engage with people regardless of age to enable the building of relationships with people within our community. In 2017 we are basing Messy Church on ‘Messy Hospitality’ by Lucy Moore who is the inspiration and driving force for Messy Church.
In her introduction to the book ‘Messy Hospitality: Changing communities through Fun Food Friendship and Faith’ Lucy writes p7.
Hospitality is where it’s at. Hospitality is where God is at. It’s key to opening the doors to the kingdom. Jesus loved and accepted absolutely everybody; he showed his acceptance by eating with them.
|Saturday April 1st 2017||The Meals Jesus Ate|
|Saturday June 10th 2017||The Last Supper|
|Saturday October 7th 2017||The Early Church|
|Saturday November 18th 2017||The Heavenly Home|
This is a joint initiative between All Saints Church Stoneycroft and St David’s Church Childwall.
Venue: St David’s Church Rocky Lane, Childwall, Merseyside, L16 1J
Time 4pm to 6pm. There is no charge for these events. Children please bring an adult along with you.
Looking forward to welcoming you to a different way of interacting in our society, a new and vibrant way to refreshed hospitality within our neighbourhood, the new ‘borrowing a cup of sugar’.
(This article by Rev Sally Mason was originally published as part of St David’s Messenger in April 2017)