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Sunday Dinner

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Growing up, one of the things I looked forward to on Sundays was not Sunday school or church service. It was Sunday dinner. During the school year, when I was at home with my parents, that meant going out to eat with family friends. During the summer, when my sister and I stayed with my grandparents for a couple of months, that meant a good, old-fashioned Sunday dinner that my grandmother had spent most of Saturday evening putting together (my two favorites are still to this day Roast Beef and Chicken-and-Rice Casserole).

Once I moved to Nashville, aside from attending church by myself and having to witness everyone else there with their families/spouses/partners, one of the changes that was hardest on me was that big, empty, yawning gap of Sunday afternoon spent alone. For me, Sunday-dinner time is family time, whether it’s a home-cooked meal or at a restaurant.

For a few years, when there were large singles groups at the churches I attended, I once again had people to share that time with. I’m not sure if it’s that we’re more spiritually open after attending church or what, but there’s something special about the time spent around the Sunday dinner table that provides a kind of bonding that isn’t found at most other meals/social times. It’s a time of affirming, “This is my family. These are people I care about and who care about me.”

So in addition to being bombarded with the “you’re alone/not part of a family unit” message at church for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, eating lunch alone afterward is part of what started making Sunday one of my least favorite days of the week . . . and one of the reasons I started avoiding going to church altogether. If I didn’t go to church, I wasn’t slapped in the face with my aloneness there . . . and then I didn’t have to acknowledge that “everyone else” was leaving the church to have Sunday dinner with their “family” while I was going home to, once again, eat alone.

Something I always made an effort to do, back in the days when I was a leader in the church (whether officially or unofficially) was to invite visiting singles out to lunch with the group. Not only was it a time for me to start getting to know newcomers, but it was also a time for me to make them feel included, make their day not quite so “alone.” And that’s been one of my problems in recent years with trying to find the motivation to go to church. At the church where I’m still officially a member (but haven’t attended in at least a year), I was going to a Sunday school class where everyone else was at least fifteen to twenty (plus) years older than me, married, with teenagers, twentysomethings, or even offspring my age. We had great theological discussions in that class, but I never really felt like I was a part. I was just allowed to be there. Then, I would go sing in the choir—because it’s much less obvious, to me and everyone else, that I’m alone when I’m sitting amongst 40-or-so other people in a homogeneous blob of green choir robes. Afterward, I would go back to the choir room, disrobe, get my stuff, and leave. I might pick something up on the way home, or I might have actually planned ahead and had a meal in the Crock-Pot. But I knew I would be eating it by myself.

This church broadcast its services on a local cable TV station. So if I could get up an hour or two later, not have to iron something or put on pantyhose (okay, so I rarely wear hose even when I do dress up, but still…), sit in my comfortable recliner, and have my coffee while watching the service on TV—and feeling as much a part of it by “participating” that way—what was the point in actually making the effort to go? No one seemed to miss me, anyway (based on the lack of contacts/phone calls when I stopped going).

So anyway, the whole point of this post was not to devolve into whining about my past church experiences, but to talk about my current church-visiting experiences. I visited another Sunday school class this week—and I should have started with it, just from the name: the “Friendship” class. It’s more of a median-adult age level—I guessed most people to be in their mid-40s to mid-50s, so a little closer to my age—but I think I was still the only unmarried person in the class (of about 30 people). However, the discussion was so good that I couldn’t help but chime in several times (especially to break the awkward silences when the guest teacher would pose a question and everyone was suddenly more interested in the carpet than in him)—good enough that we only got through two of the three scripture passages prescribed by the Lectionary (Mark 13:1-8 and 1 Samuel 1:4-20; we never got to Hebrews 10:11-14).

Oh, I forgot to mention that before class started, the leader actually acknowledged that I was a visitor and let me introduce myself (by name only, but still, an acknowledgment). After class, several people came up and introduced themselves to me and welcomed me and invited me to come back to their class. Once down in the sanctuary, seated by myself on what’s quickly becoming “my” pew, a gentleman from the class came up and introduced himself to me and invited me to ask him any questions I have about the church, about the other Sunday school classes—and ended up sitting with me during the service, along with another lady from the class. After service ended, he made a point of introducing me to one of the ministers and letting her know that I’m interested in finding a group of thirty- and fortysomethings to get involved with. He encouraged me to consider attending the church-wide Thanksgiving dinner next Sunday. And not only that, but we’d exchanged business cards and he e-mailed me yesterday reiterating his welcome and the encouragement to attend the Friendship class again as well as Sunday dinner this week.

So I called and made a reservation for the dinner this morning. And for the first time in several years (except for when I’ve been visiting my family, of course), this week, I won’t be having Sunday dinner alone.

  1. Wednesday, November 18, 2009 2:08 pm

    That’s awesome Kaye! I know too that growing up, Sunday lunch was a fun time for the family – almost always a fast food resturant though. I know that after college I always found it so weird how as soon as the pastor said amen for the last prayer that people would just about run out the door.


    • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 4:21 pm

      “…people would just about run out the door.”

      Of course, because you have to beat the Methodists/Presbyterians/Catholics/whoever to the buffet line at Luby’s/Piccadilly Cafeteria! (And you especially want to beat the Baptists there. Take it from a recovering Baptist. I know these things!) 😉


      • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 11:15 pm

        Love it. We Baptists are known for the love of food! As traveling missionaries, we were always taken out to eat when we visited churches. Getting in the buffet lines…hehehe, fun. 😉 A pastor once said that to a Baptist, fellowship is spelled “food”. 😉

        I think that fellowship is sooooo important as a church body. We go to a teeeeeny tiny church (six-eight families) but I love it because Wwe’re all so close!!! we often go to Wendy’s or something after church. Eating together is incredibly important to relationships, that’s why they’re making such a big deal of families eating together. The church is supposed to be a family (don’t get me started on the deteriorating state of the church…it’s my dad’s favorite soapbox), so hello, I think that church fellowships are awesome. Our church has a fellowship once a month. Another friend’s church has a churchwide dinner every week after church. I think that’s great, too.


        • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 11:18 pm

          And I’m glad you’ve found a good church, Kaye!


  2. Wednesday, November 18, 2009 3:27 pm

    That’s excellent, Kaye! I’m so happy for you. Perhaps you’ll meet others in this church who would love to share Sunday dinners with you on a weekly basis. i’ll pray for that for you.

    I know at our church we have so few 2o-somethings, that those we do have are leaving because there’s nothing for them. We can try and create things, but without the people to join, it’s a no-win case. Sometimes finding a new church is really what we’re supposed to do.


    • Wednesday, November 18, 2009 4:22 pm

      The irony about the whole Sunday-dinner thing now is that I go to Weight Watchers on Sunday afternoon for my weigh-in. So even if I do end up going out to lunch after church with someone, I’ll have to be very picky about what/how much I eat!


      • greyfort permalink
        Friday, November 20, 2009 2:27 pm

        No, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. As long as you are healthy about your choices, it’ll even out. The first week *might* be a little bit less of a loss but the following weeks you’ll go back to seeing the loss that you normally have.


  3. Saturday, November 28, 2009 8:45 pm

    Wow. I am super-impressed with that dude. I hope others at your church are like him, as well.


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