The last time we visited Prince Edward Island (PEI) was at least 25 years ago, but one thing that stuck in our minds, besides the red sand beaches, was the traditional lobster suppers held in church basements. Teams of patrons wore plastic bibs, sat in rows of tables in the fellowship hall, chatting and joking as they enjoyed their five course meal – mussels, clam chowder with fresh rolls, potato salad, lobster and dessert, with hot coffee. The atmosphere was jovial, which helped to build up an appetite as you watched other diners’ eyes lit up while they devoured their delicious meal.
But times have changed. Restaurants had taken over much of the business, so fundraising via lobster suppers by churches for their parish is no longer profitable. One of the oldest, St. Ann’s, which had been catering daily for over 50 years, closed this summer. Some had switched to an annual event during the Island’s fisheries or lobster festivals. We attended one at Murray Harbor-Murray River, which, though on a smaller scale compared to what we recalled, afforded some spiritual lessons.
First, the beneficiary was for the community arena, used by many local residents. When was the last time your church did something to support the community, not just for yourself?
Secondly, it was a joint effort of all the churches in the area – Baptist, Church of Christ, Church of Scotland, Pentecostal, and United. It was inter-denominational for the benefit of the community, with no doctrinal issues. I’m not saying doctrine is not important, but there are times when doctrine is not involved and we can cooperate.
Third, it was an every member involvement. The churches did not just donate funds, the whole congregation from staff to members participated. Some donated dessert, some served as kitchen helpers or waiters, a local company donated lobsters. Everyone contributed something. Did your church have projects like this that pulled everybody together?
Fourth, it was like a family reunion. We noticed that while there were tourists like us, many of the patrons knew each other on a first name basis. It was a big community event that drew everyone out for a “family” gathering. They talked, they laughed, and all had a good time. It’s so refreshing to see many people working together for the common good, and having fun at the same time.
Sure I’m all for evangelism and discipleship, but unless you have unity and love for one another, how can you draw people? Seems we can learn a lesson or two from a simple community event. You might say that works only in rural areas where everyone knows everybody else. Perhaps, but what’s your strategy for reaching your community?