This week’s blog is written by Tony Lee, who attends Aletheia church and has been involved with UniteBoston’s worship team and neighborhood dinners. As a young professional in Boston, he is interested in finding Christian movements in the city and connecting people together. Read below to hear about how Tony understands gathering as an opportunity to gain, give, and grow.
I was a UB dinner coordinator this past year and had the pleasure of hosting a few dinners at my home in Revere. I got to coordinate strangers meeting other strangers for fellowship, and make them some good food. (Note: You can read Father Tom Ryan’s experience of attending a UB neighborhood dinner at Tony’s house here.) From these nights of gathering, I’ve picked up on a few themes that can illuminate the value of gathering, and the unifying potential it has.
To gather is to gain.
Gathering comes with perks. I’ll start with the food. I especially enjoy potluck gatherings (pro-tip: hosting a potluck usually correlates with extra treats later). In college, I was on a student leadership team and remember planning events to always involve food because that was the best incentive to get students to attend. Not surprisingly, this works the same for people after college. We like food and we like to go to things where food is present.
Whenever food and fellowship combine, good things happen. People are happy, and the social atmosphere is pleasant. I sincerely believe there is more potential for exciting conversations over hors d’oeuvres than over the phone. So by gathering, we also gain relationships. Every time I invited someone into my home, I was receiving their friendship by spending time with them. These dinners are now memories for us, and a point of empathy. In summary, I got a friend, a memory, and some empathy points from gathering. That’s pretty good.
To gather is to give.
I have the role model of my mother as a great giver. She was the homemaker in my family, and the most faithful, diligent, caring person in our house. Her hospitality was more like sacrifice. So whenever we came together for supper, the spirit of giving was evident. Now I’m doing the best I can to give like her.
Hosting a dinner for a large group is a commitment. I’d get worried about food, seating, or social comforts for the guests sometimes. But out of my anxiety, was an opportunity to give. Guests also may need to prepare their sides, or travel far distances. In the process of gathering, there are opportunities for us to give, or to give up. I’m sure we’ve all been the people who show up to a potluck empty-handed, or choose not to go to somewhere because of the commute. But like anything else, we can practice giving and grow in our sacrificial lifestyle. Even interpersonally, I try to focus on encouraging or motivating others in their own esteem than dig for what they can offer me. It just so happens that we meet others who also like to give, which is how we gain. The world teaches me to take, but my mom taught me to give. I believe this is what God desires to teach us as well.
To gather is to grow.
At the dinners, we were able to gain and give to one another. We practiced this with people we knew and strangers. Of course, it can be challenging to suddenly come to a point in a conversation with someone who has drastically different ideologies than me. One time, I caught myself becoming very defensive, and had to recalibrate my objective in the moment to prioritize unity. I got some growth points from that. It’s actually much easier to live without fixating on our differences, and rather seeking out our common denominators. To do this, I have to receive someone as a friend (gain), and be considerate to them (give). Because in the end, it’s not what divides us that matter.
As Rose from Star Wars 8 says, “we’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” This is critical. We as children of God are created in His image and have a deep connectedness that unifies us. Jesus was the model for the ideal unifier. He ate with outcasts on the margins and shared the gospel to those who needed it most. We have the same opportunities in our city. We can find a rhythm of gaining and giving, by staying open to friendships and paying it forward. There is much growth that develops from this rhythm.
I believe this is the direction our hearts and minds must go. It’s the direction of growth and wisdom. Gathering together is simply the vessel that allows us to get there, through practice and experience. But also, food can be a part of the journey.
Learn more about UB neighborhood dinners here, and sign up so that we can contact you when one is happening in your neighborhood!