My summer with the wonderful Laurel Heights congregation has afforded me one of the most luxurious practices of my particular vocation – “cottage meetings.” These are a Methodist convention inherited from the last century. A cottage meeting from the 1930s is described here by Mary Jenson, whose rural Northern Ireland family hosted these gatherings on a regular basis:
The minister would arrive on his bicycle for tea about five thirty and after that the table was taken out and the chairs arranged in rows ready for the meeting.
By nine thirty the meeting would be over and you might expect that everyone would then go home, but not so. Instead, they all stayed for a supper of tea, oven bread, apple tart and sponge cakes, all prepared in readiness by my mother and all baked in a Dutch oven over the open turf fire.
When the minister departed on his bicycle, the atmosphere would naturally relax somewhat and many of the neighbours would stay on till eleven o’clock, or so. The women would exchange bits of gossip, while the men talked farming and the children played.
While I’ve generally not ridden my bicycle to and from our Laurel Heights cottage meetings, nor—as far as I know—have guests lingered until close to midnight, there are other similarities to the cottage meetings of a century ago. Among them . . . scrumptious food! I have discovered that some of the best cooks on the planet attend Laurel Heights, and our cottage meetings have been graced by delicious things to eat.
But the “delicious” has extended beyond the food to the people who have enjoyed it together. In the Bible we have a verse that goes this way: Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live in unity (Psalm 133:1). In Spanish the verse is rendered this way (emphasis mine): Mirad cuan bueno y cuan delicioso es . . .
How delicious indeed, and how much there is to savor, when we gather, arrange the chairs, and begin to share about some of the most important things in our faith journeys: memories of our original welcome into the Laurel Heights church family; God moments we’ve experienced over the years as a part of this congregation; our hopes and dreams for all that is yet to be . . .
I am so very grateful to you for the generous and open ways you have shared your spiritual journeys with me and one another, and invited Liz and me to include ours in the mixture. This has happened at our cottage meetings, certainly, but also in hallway conversations, committee meetings, missional outings, and yes, visits to “Thin Air” with the youth. “My cup runneth over.” It has all been delicious!
We have an open-invitation cottage meeting scheduled for Sunday, August 26th at 4 p.m. in the lovely home of Paul and Trudy Kinnison. (Please call the church office to reserve a place.) Who knows—I may ride my bike there; and you may end up staying till close to midnight! If you’ve not yet been a part of these wonderful gatherings, I hope you’ll come.
Grace and peace.