July 26, 2012 at 7:03 am, by Carl
Last Sunday, my church had an ice cream event. The idea is a part of sharing a common meal, the core of which was the church’s main religious gathering at the start of Christianity. They called it a Love Feast, encapsulating the notion of sharing food (a historic method of building trust and connection) along with the reason for their sharing, the Love given to each of us through Jesus Christ. Of course, I doubt ice cream was ever on the menu back in Jerusalem, but among the many other things we choose to eat (we’ve had chili cook-off’s and pie baking contests as well), ice cream is a natural favorite
The genesis for this goes back into my history where back in the 1970s, my childhood church would always have a Homemade Ice Cream event each summer. Realize this was back in the day of hand-cranking the ice cream, something most of you have not ever experienced (the doing or the eating—best ice cream EVER!!). The experience of hand cranking was a wonderful symbol of community in that it took (as it does today with electronic machines) about 30-40 minutes of turning the mixture to achieve the ice cream. Yet, no one could really sit there for 30 minutes cranking the ice cream—okay, at times my dad would do it alone, but it really was exhausting alone, so it took a community.
I can remember family gatherings where my dad, uncles and cousins would be out on the porch (the aunts would be inside doing other things for the event—ice cream cranking was almost exclusively a male thing, unless you were a niece, in which case you’d get a few cranks on the machine); eventually the older men would turn to one of us kids and allow us the privilege of cranking the ice cream…it was actually hard to do, especially when you were younger than 10, and not surprisingly, after a few minutes, you’d give up in exhaustion. Someone else would take your place, but all the while, conversation about life, love, issues and events would be swirling around you. If the night was really perfect, the kids would be catching fireflies or playing tag in the fading light.
Of course, at church, the ice cream would have been already churned, but we’d come into the Fellowship Hall to a wondrous site of 20-40 churns of homemade ice cream. Realize, my hometown of Athens, TN was the home of what many consider to be the world’s best ice cream, Mayfield Diary (Time magazine declared it so in one issue in 1981), but on that night, no one would have dared to bring Mayfield’s to the church. You had every kind of flavor around and we kids would often get stomachaches from trying as many flavors as possible. Of course, we’d always go back to our favorite, often that of our mother or a relative.
That picture of a family of faith sitting around eating ice cream is a great image of what every church is meant to be. Not a conglomerate of consumers, barely able to know each other’s faces let alone names, like the teeming masses at a mall might be if that place offered free ice cream—pleasant enough to one another, but mostly looking out for their own. No, not like that, but rather like that larger family experience I described happening from the porch of my grandparents’ house—a family engaged in life together, on a mutual journey, where everyone was deeply invested in each other.
I hope you have this. It’s not an easy thing to achieve in today’s world, especially in most modern churches. Yet, we need this in America today. The loss of community has been deeply discussed, not the least of which here in my writing. I want you to Live Well—to do that you need others, and more than just a few close friends. We didn’t survive in the wilderness nor carve out this successful nation by just engaging 3-5 close friends with everyone else seen as a threat or “not my problem.” You can be the difference maker.
In your next college class, be the leader to pull your classmates together for study teams. Take the idea into your workplace and organize group lunches or a Saturday night gathering for your office or work team. Be the one in your neighborhood or apartment complex to engage your neighbors. You don’t have to plan a block party, though that would be cool, but you could at least make sure you say hello often.
Maybe, to pull this off well, you need to think back to my hometown experience of ice cream. Perhaps you just need to plan an ice cream party or surprise your classmates or workmates with a tub of ice cream. Bring some small paper cups and plastic spoons and voila, you’ve created an experience of community. Won’t necessarily change the world, but it’s a start, a start that could be part of a saving solution for our nation.
The Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips was decrying the recent Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, for pushing the imagery of dread, perhaps mimicking our nation’s current state of mental anguish as we watch things slowly deteriorate. He was writing in the wake of the tragedy in Colorado. At the end of his piece, Phillips zeroes in on the real issue at stake in our country when he wrote this:
I’m not sure why, exactly, but the saddest thing I read after the killings came from Tom Mai, a neighbor of the Holmes family in suburban San Diego. In an Associated Press interview, Mai described Holmes, who recently endured some troubles at school and, like millions, couldn’t find full-time work, as “a typical American kid.”
He “kept to himself,” Mai said.
And he “didn’t seem to have many friends.”
Ice cream would not have solved the issues, the evil, in the mind of the shooter. But perhaps had he been raised in a society that valued community, valued the shared sense of a journey together, yes, valued something as simple as churning ice cream together….perhaps then this young man would have had someone to talk to BEFORE he decided to commit such a heinous act.
I want you to Live Well. I want you to be a difference maker. You can be, even if you are “just a student.” That boy had been a student recently in a PhD program…someone who feels like him could be in a class you take starting in a few weeks. Be the one to stand and call others together, even if it’s just for ice cream.