by Jackie Parker
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
One Sunday, during the sharing portion of our worship, I revealed I was having a hard time—that the pandemic, fear for people’s health, and physical distancing were taking a toll—and with no end in sight, I was starting to feel hopeless.
It wasn’t the first time I had shared about difficult emotions; RMC has proven to be a safe space in which to be honest, and each time a member expresses a concern or heartache, I have always seen it met with compassion, understanding, and occasionally (with the recipient’s permission), a laying on of hands, as blessing.
If we had been meeting in person, there may have been this physical touch to assuage my fears; certainly, there would have been hugs after service, a few laugh-tears shed, and a sense of relief at having lessened the burden.
Perhaps because we don’t have this option, while we gather remotely, and because many of us are seeking ways to show up for each other emotionally, if not physically, a member took it upon himself to provide a virtual hug, by means of one of my all-time favorite vehicles: a home-made pie.
I received a text from his spouse, wondering if there might be a good time to bring it over, and she came by later that day to do a porch drop-off and have a quick chat from a safe distance. The pie was beautiful: an apple-cranberry tart topped with flaky, golden stars. I had felt better after sharing my pain in worship, but when my family and I tucked into the pie that evening, I was reminded, with each delicious bite, that the feelings hadn’t gone into the void. Someone had heard them and wanted to bring light (and a little sweetness) into my day. The gesture, while simple, felt profound.
Later that week, my husband (the resident baker in our family), was getting ready for a meeting with another congregant, and decided to bake her and her wife a pie. She wrote soon after to say what a treat it had been, and I shared the story of having received a pie the previous Sunday. I can take no credit for what she came up with next: to “Pie-it-Forward” and keep the gift of love (in pastry form) going. She made a pie for another member, who then presented a couple with one of her own, who then made a crumble to pass along. I’m not sure where we are with our “Pie-it-Forward,” but I hope it continues to wind its way through our membership. Perhaps those who are baking-challenged (I’d include myself on this list), could choose to cook a little something or extend a hand in another way. The point is, we may be isolated from each other at the moment, but we are not invisible. This congregation which has gone through so much, including a period of “homelessness” while our tabernacle sought a more permanent location, has proven we don’t need to be in the same room to hold each other up.
In the case of “Pie-ing it Forward,” the gift of food is an acknowledgement that we’re collectively going through a hard time. Just as the sweet charoset serves as counterbalance to the bitter herbs in a Passover Seder, we won’t always be here. I’m hopeful our sheltering-in-place won’t last 40 years, but when all is said and done, I am comforted by the thought that the greatest freedom is often a result of walking through hopelessness, suffering, and fear.
During this Year at the Table, we have experienced the many ways in which we can practice communion—within our congregation, with other faith communities, and in other parts of the world. While we can’t all gather as a group, at this time, we can carry on the Mennonite tradition of the fellowship meal, sharing in each others’ joys and challenges, as we wander together.
I’ll bring the pie.