Life in Community

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Life in Community

Thanksgiving Every Day

November 23, 2018 by

“Let’s have a moment of silence,” prompts Martin, who’s been picked to MC our communal lunches this month. All two hundred of us become still, conversations cut off with whispered, “I’ll tell you later,” hands at rest.

It isn’t an abrupt silence that overcomes our communal dining hall at the beginning of lunch. It’s more of a gradual diminuendo. Those of us who have been doing this long enough instinctively know when our common meal is about to begin with a silent grace. The opportunity for this collective pause is both a respite from the continuous forward motion of the day and a moment full of thanksgiving as the simple need to eat is transformed to something greater, a festival of community.

Except for the very youngest children who are already napping with a babysitter, all of Spring Valley can’t wait for lunch. If at all possible, the school kids will try to sneak into the kitchen and read the menu, scrawled on a whiteboard. The news will spread like wildfire: corn-on-the-cob, turkey thighs, fresh apples. Gathering for lunch is always a joyful convergence as groups of men and women stride up the hill from the workshop (no long, draining commutes here) and clusters of bouncy children skip down the hill from the school building and race across the lobby to give mom or dad a hug. (Don’t be surprised by the queue at the motion-activated hand sanitizer dispenser. In fact, I recommend it. Having lunch with a crowd of two hundred has its occupational hazards.)

lunch at the Bruderhof communityLunch at Fox Hill community

All too soon, the lively commotion resumes as steaming bowls of brown rice and cauliflower (picked this morning) are served out. Yes, I relish the moments of silence – especially on the part of my children – but now I’m savoring the home-grown organic fare. If “organic” conjures up earthy aromas of protein powder or hints of hemp, apologies. In this case the food tastes incredible because it’s grown on-site in our community’s garden, free of herbicides and pesticides. It’s also almost completely free of fossil fuels: only a quarter mile separates the garden and steam kettle.

All of which reminds me that community is a lot like healthy organic soil. It’s an interdependent matrix of nutrients and organisms. For best results, the gardener enhances the soil and its components with manure, crop rotation, and more that I don’t know much about.

But I digress. Tossed salad with at least three vegetables represented, grilled zucchini… what sounds like an upper-class privilege is simply the fruit of mutual love and service.

Sharing this meal together also addresses our profound desire for community. Just as man was not made to live alone, neither, it follows, is it good to eat alone. Too many of us, when left to our own devices will passively grab some junk food. Alone, we may never even sit down. We’ll stand while eating. We’ll eat on the fly. Our cultures’ allergy to limitation, pride in personal freedom and endless choice, has reduced us to takeout dinners, energy bars, and Go-Gurt.

Lunch is a wonderful time to gather and take stock in the middle of the day. We’ll concern ourselves with news from around the world – hurricane and wildfires, lately – or closer to home, an elderly person in a sister community who is ill and needs our prayers.

Just as man was not made to live alone, neither, it follows, is it good to eat alone. 

A few weeks ago, we were able to share our common meal with almost ninety kids. The third and fourth grades from a local elementary school joined us for lunch during their annual field trip to Spring Valley. A server had to refill the green bean dish three times while the group of girls at my table ate and talked with gusto: “Why is the food so good?” “Why is it so fancy in here?” (The paper monarch butterflies and autumn leaves hung in tasteful swirls on the wall were certainly fancy.) “I want to live here forever. And it’s not just cuz the food is so good.” These nine-year-olds were experiencing that festival of community and wanted more.

The lively hubbub returns to even greater levels after we sing a closing song. Kids dash about clearing the tables, grownups make plans for the afternoon with arms full of dirty dishes. Someone brought out several buckets of soapy water for wiping the tables, weaving around the elderly folk being pushed home in their wheelchairs.

As Eberhard Arnold, founder of the Bruderhof, describes it, our “exhausted society” must be replaced by a “living organic community.” It is only living when Jesus is present, but we have his promise that he will be present where two or three are gathered. That is what I experience every day at lunch – and I long to share it with more and more people. If you need a place for lunch, do stop in. I just can’t promise turkey every day.

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About the author

Jordanna

Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Spring Valley Community with her husband, Johann, and their four children, as well as Kizzie the...

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  • the Bruderhof community is a blessing to so many! Thank you!

    Keith Riddick