MakeLunch Holiday Lunch Club

Would you rather eat chocolate or cheese? Do you prefer jelly or ice cream? What’s better: sausages or chicken?

These are the kind of questions we throw around the lunch table at Lunch Club. My fellow guests, as you might have guessed, are mostly primary school aged children – with the exception of a fellow volunteer.

We eat together, on average, every six weeks during the school holidays. Usually following a fierce game of Dobble, some serious craft-making or (in my case) defeat at table football.

Lunch Club is one of the 70+ Lunch Kitchens that make up the MakeLunch network. MakeLunch exists to equip churches, community groups, schools and local authorities to tackle holiday hunger.

What do we mean by holiday hunger?

In the UK, 1.2 million children are eligible for Free School Meals. But when school stops for the holidays, so does the food. For families who are struggling financially anyway, the end of term brings with it added pressure and the risk of hunger and isolation.

The report ‘Isolation and Hunger: the reality of school holidays for struggling parents’ showed that 1 in 3 of the low-income parents that were surveyed had skipped a meal so their children could eat during the holidays.

In communities across the UK, MakeLunch is not just a place for free, hot and healthy food. It’s also a place where community is built and relationships flourish.

Lunch Club, like many of the Lunch Kitchens across the UK, is hugely popular in the community. When the time comes for the kids to come in, there are happy faces waiting at the door, excited to burst over the threshold, launch into the fun and get stuck into the food.

How does MakeLunch help?

For many families who attend, Lunch Kitchens are not just about meeting a physical need.

They provide a safe, welcoming place to go in the school holidays, when very little else is available that doesn’t have a price tag attached to it. One of our Lunch Makers recently told us: ‘One mum says that coming here is the only time she gets out with her son in the school holidays.’

A recent report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger (‘Hungry Holidays: A report on hunger amongst children during school holidays‘) collated data and evidence from across the country about holiday hunger and what is being done tackle this issue.

The report summarises that:
“The inquiry has been presented with evidence of three main advantages – financial, educational, and in physical and mental health – that add an important element of happiness to the lives of those families who are supported by projects that seek to address hunger amongst children during school holidays.

Each of these advantages improves children’s quality of life, as well as their chances of growing up to become healthy, well- educated adults, while simultaneously increasing parents’ confidence and adding to their skills base.”

Since it started in 2011, the MakeLunch network has served over 50,000 meals and by this summer, will have over 80 partners across the country. We couldn’t be prouder of the efforts made by the committed teams who are taking on the battle against holiday hunger.

Yet, there is still more to be done. Holiday meal provision is sporadic and there are huge gaps in our network.

So, would you rather eat chocolate or cheese? Could you speak to your local church or school about starting to serve a meal in the school holidays? How will you join us in the fight against holiday hunger?

And finally, do you prefer jelly or ice cream?

More about MakeLunch

If you want to get in touch with MakeLunch and find out how you could help to tackle holiday hunger, email or see the MakeLunch website.

Thanks to Hannah from the MakeLunch Network for this story. Images used with permission.

Burning Bush Forest Church, Canada

The snow is deep and the sun is low in the sky. Eighteen people are gathered at the edge of an urban forest, a cherished oasis in the city of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, to worship together.

I welcome everyone and begin with a grounding prayer, entering into this time and place with our bodies and spirits. It is fourth Advent, and we have come to celebrate and anticipate the coming of Light.

We read John 1:1-5, and talk about the Light shining in the darkness. We also acknowledge the winter solstice, just days away, this season of darkness and our physical longing for the return of longer days.

The children are starting to get a bit restless – it is time for our walk. I break a fresh path through the snow into the forest.

The children soon run ahead of me, stopping at each fork in the path to look back for a silent signal indicating which way to turn. The adults walk in silence, paying attention with our senses to the mysteries of the Divine Presence among us.

In time we reach our destination: a small clearing of sorts, with some fallen trees that serve as benches for the children. The light is fading, and we form a circle. I pull candles out of my backpack, light them and pass them around.

As is our practice, space is made for sharing insights and observations with each other – ways we have sensed God’s divine presence among us. After praying together, we walk back through the darkened woods with our candles in hand.

A final blessing wraps up our time together, and we head back to my house for a potluck supper and warm drinks. At our home, the table is opened to its full extension. People pull food out of backpacks and bags and soon the table is filled with our offerings.

At our home, the table is opened to its full extension…it is at the table that we get to know each other more fully.

Children fill their plates first, and then move to the living room to eat on the floor, picnic-style. Adults gather around the table and conversation flows as we share the meal together. It is at the table that we get to know each other more fully.

We have been doing this for over a year now: gathering for worship outdoors to deepen our connection with God our Creator, with creation, and with each other.

We have chosen the name Burning Bush Forest Church to recognize a species of tree native to our bioregion, that is part of our “congregation,” as well as to remind us of the story of Moses.

God speaks to Moses in a burning bush, instructing him to take off his sandals, for the ground he is standing on is holy ground.

Our worship gatherings are decidedly informal. Our liturgy includes: prayers and sacred readings, a block of time to wander in nature paying attention to the Divine Presence among us, and a time to share our insights with each other.

Our liturgy includes…a block of time to wander in nature paying attention to the Divine Presence among us.

We rarely celebrate communion at our gatherings, partly due to influence from my Mennonite background that only serves communion a few times a year. We did, however, mark our first anniversary by sharing the Eucharist together (the communion elements were homemade spelt bread and grape juice made from wild grapes that grow in our backyard).

We often share meals together before or after worship – outdoor picnics, meals around a campfire, and shared potlucks in homes. Sharing food is an integral part of building community.

My path to starting an outdoor church gathering began in 2014, during a four-month sabbatical from my position as pastor at St Jacobs Mennonite Church (Ontario). Though it probably goes back further still, to formative faith experiences at Mennonite camps and an agricultural heritage that relied on the land and lived by the seasons.

My sabbatical focus was to study post-Christendom and visit new expressions of church. During those months, I was engaged in an ongoing conversation with a friend who was done with church.

She could no longer sit still inside a church building. She longed for a more holistic expression of faith that would get her and her family outdoors and engage their entire bodies.

That same fall I had a son enrolled in forest school. One day when I was picking him up the epiphany hit me: if there could be such a thing as forest school, why couldn’t there be forest church? Was that what my friend and I had been talking about?

Out of curiosity I Googled the term “forest church” and at the top of the list was the Mystic Christ website.

Mystic Christ is an umbrella website for a movement in the UK which includes over a dozen forest churches. My imagination was piqued and I ordered their book.

I was captivated with what I read and with the concept of worshiping outdoors, not just in nature, but with creation. I started doing more reading, talking, and dreaming about what it might look like to start a forest church. Could people really worship outdoors in the winter in Canada?! (The answer is “yes!”)

In the months following my sabbatical, I led various experimental outdoor worship gatherings with different groups of people.

Finally, recognizing that the calling to engage this idea more fully would not go away, I launched Burning Bush Forest Church in March of 2016. Now, we meet monthly on a Sunday afternoon, in different natural areas in and around Kitchener-Waterloo.

About the Author

Wendy Janzen is a Mennonite pastor and lead guide of Burning Bush Forest Church. She resides in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada, where she shares space with her partner, two sons, and their cat.

In the summer she feeds her soul by getting her hands dirty in the garden growing vegetables and flowers, in the winter by getting out and cross-country skiing. She is a partner in the Wild Church Network.

Find out more about Burning Bush Forest Church on their Facebook page.

Church of the Woods, USA

‘Gifts of God’ – a Church of the Woods eucharist

Thanks to Rev. Stephen Blackmer for this story.

The congregation is standing in a rough circle on the uneven, holy ground of the forest that is our church. In the center is our altar – today, a small table in the clearing, other days a decaying stump up on the rocky knoll.

On the altar, in addition to bread and wine, is an assemblage of bits of Nature: broken-open acorns, British soldier moss, a posy of woods violets, flashing bits of mica, curling white birch bark, newly opened beech leaves.

All gathered by members of the community during our woods-contemplation.

We are a joyful assemblage of young and old, near and far, regulars and visitors. Today, we are welcoming a delightful couple who happened to be driving down our little dirt road in Canterbury, New Hampshire, past our even littler dirt driveway and flapping plastic-laminated sign.

“Church of the Woods…” Liz said, “isn’t that the church we read about in Harper’s magazine?” They pull over and walk the 200 yards into the woods to see. Preparing for our morning service, I see them, wave, and say hello.

“We’re Liz and Don. We were just driving by… We used to live near here, but now we live in North Carolina.” When I check, I find that they have traveled 988 miles to be here. I welcome them and they stay for the service.

We worship in a Hundred Acre Wood. One hundred and six, to be exact. This is where we go to pray, to play, to be in community with each other and with all the beings and creatures: pegmatites, deer, black birch trees, cinnamon ferns, sphagnum moss, pileated woodpeckers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, chipmunks, fairy cup lichens, black flies and mosquitos, deer and moose.

Before we were here, it was logged very heavily. We come here to pray, restoring ourselves and the land to life.

Church of the Woods USA Creation Peacemeal

Throughout the Gospels, whenever Jesus is portrayed as praying (when he is direct communion with God, his Abba) the gospel writers tell us that, “Jesus went alone up the mountain to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) Or Jesus went into the desert, or to a lonely place, or into the wilderness. Alone.

He is never – not once – shown as going into the temple to pray. We follow his practice; walking in silence in the woods, by the stream, in the clearings, to listen to what God-in-Nature has to say.

We follow Jesus’ practice; walking in silence in the woods, by the stream, in the clearings, to listen to what God-in-Nature has to say.

If we are so moved while we are out in the wild woods, we find a token of our experience and bring it back as part of the offering placed upon the altar; giving back to God the gifts we have received, including bits of the woods.

Church of the Woods USA Peacemeal Creation

Around the altar, we recite together the prayer of consecration that asks God to pour out his Spirit upon the bread and wine on the altar – and equally upon these gifts of the land.

Recognizing that each of these gifts is filled with Christ, we pray to God to help us see the sacred that is eternally within, around, and amongst us: “Open our eyes and renew us in your love.”

“These are the gifts of God for all the creatures of God…” With these words, I break the communion bread – a small unleavened disk of wheat, oil, milk, and honey – into bite-sized pieces.

“It’s our practice at Church of the Woods to offer the first morsel of sacred food back to the Earth from which all life comes.” With these words, I give the small chunk of bread to the ground in front of the altar.

Church of the Woods USA Creation Peacemeal

If woods-contemplation is the center of our service, this meal is the culmination. We have entered body, mind, and spirit into God’s woods, brought to the altar holy gifts from the land, and offered “our own bodies – our own living sacrifice.”

Now, completing the exchange, we are taking God’s body into our own that we “may be made new and sent forth in love to heal the world.”

After feeding the Earth and creatures of the woods, we pass the bread of life around, each of us offering the sacred bread to our neighbor. Wine – the cup of love – follows.

When both have circled around and everyone has been fed, the final sip of wine is given to the Earth that it, too, may be re-filled with God’s spirit.

“God of abundance, you have fed us with the bread of life and the cup of love. You have reunited us with Christ, with the Earth, and with one another.

Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit that we may proclaim your love and continue forever in the risen life of Christ.” Amen.

More about Church of the Woods

Church of the Woods USA Creation PeacemealRev. Stephen Blackmer, priest of Church of the Woods, has kindly shared the Eucharist liturgy quoted in this story with us. You can download it as a PDF from our Liturgies page.

Church of the Woods describe themeselves as ‘a new kind of “church” on 106 acres of wild woods and wetlands in Canterbury, NH.’ Church of the Woods is a central part of the work of Kairos Earth.

Find out more on the Church of the Woods website.

Living Here – Working Here Garden

Chris Lewis, minister of Mount Zion Baptist Chapel, Bonymaen, tells how their garden project has been renamed Living Here – Working Here.

Living Here – Working Here is in continuity with the tradition and ethos of Mount Zion Baptist Chapel, which was established in 1924 and known locally as The Mission. Its history was one of community engagement through the familiar activities of Sunday School, meetings, Girl Guides and Brigades.

Bonymaen is an old settlement on the eastern edge of Swansea. The maen (pronounced like ‘mine’) – the standing stone – is on the green in front of the Bonymaen Inn.

Bonymaen, where both English and Welsh are spoken, has developed as an urban village with a lot of social housing. Overall, it is a deprived area and is the location of Welsh Government-funded Communities First team.

To the west of the village, across a busy link road, lies the enterprise zone in which there are bank offices, the main Royal Mail sorting office, car dealerships, wholesalers, retailers and numerous other businesses.

Many people commute into this part of the ward. The renaming of the project expresses an ambition to make contact with people who work in our area as well.

Living Here – Working Here is about:

  •  Showing the Gospel simply through being with people. We want to share Christianity as a way of living an abundant life, which is fundamentally based on relationship, from which stems a concern for mutuality and justice in the present and a responsibility to those who will come after us.
  • Working cooperatively with those whose objectives and desires for good are similar to ours; the Kingdom of God is greater than our localised conception of it.
  • Being ‘ordinary’. A paradox of the Gospel is that there is strength in weakness. It doesn’t matter that we’re small, rather like the exiles in Babylon we look for salvation just where we are.

Living Here Working Here Garden Cultivation PeacemealOver the last four years, we have been making a ‘learning garden’ to regain the skills of growing fruit and vegetables for home consumption to save money, reduce food miles and support health.

This is gaining us a growing community of interest, simply because we are open regularly.

Our garden has also been useful as a volunteering opportunity for Welsh Baccalaureate students from our community secondary school, Cefn Hengoed, and we’ve benefitted from their hard work.

Our public profile is increasing and we are being taken seriously as an agent for change; a councillor and a council official have asked us to think about how we could expand our work.

People contribute to what we are doing by working, sharing ideas, making gifts and conversing. Some of them are people who have been alienated by institutional expressions of religion; finding them marginal or irrelevant to their lives.

We are gathering people, not to our Sunday services so much but to the garden project because we are seen as ‘putting good stuff in’ to Bonymaen and we’re being taken seriously as a people who speak for justice in the city.

Living Here Working Here Garden Cultivation PeacemealThe focus is on listening to, serving and engaging the community and whatever emerges must emerge from that.

I hope that we will become a renewed congregation, one that accepts people whose culture (as it were) is different to that of traditional Welsh chapel.

Mount Zion accepted us and I became the minister; I hope that acceptance will go on – a transformation – but I think salvation has to be understood as starting here and now.

People respond when they witness transformation. A neighbour with no church connection said to me recently about the chapel, ‘you’re turning it round’. That was an immensely affirming statement.

It’s all about gaining confidence to be who we are and applying our Christian values to make an impact.

Reproduced from this original post with permission © 2014 Fresh Expressions.

Maundy Thursday Outdoor Agape Meal

Thanks to Carmen Retzlaff, pastor at New Life Church, Dripping Springs, Texas for this story.

Luke 24:35: “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

As we move into the Easter season, we encounter the stories of the followers of Jesus encountering him in various ways and places, in that strange and liminal time after he died.

And in reading the story of the road to Emmaus, I think back on our annual Agape Meal at New Life Lutheran in Dripping Springs, Texas. On the road to Emmaus, two disciples we don’t know meet a stranger, and talk with him on the way, and only at supper do they see who he is—in the breaking of the bread.

Every year on Maundy Thursday, we worship in a special way at New Life. We already worship in a unique way as an outdoor church – just being outdoors. We have no building on our 12-acre property in the Texas Hill Country.

When it is cold or rainy, we worship in a tent. Otherwise, we are under great live oaks and God’s big blue sky. During Lent we are usually in a transitional time, moving back to our hilltop after a few months in the tent.

When it is cold or rainy, we worship in a tent. Otherwise, we are under great live oaks and God’s big blue sky.

Outdoor Agape New Life Church CreationOn Thursday of Holy Week we usually open the tent; take off the sides, or most of them, and set up tables for everyone. People bring a simple vegetarian soup, and wine and various juices and sodas, and bread.

Each table is set with wine glasses and a plate for a loaf of bread at the center. Each place has a placemat with the order of worship.

As people arrive they put their wine and bread on our simple round wooden table altar. We pray and bless the bounty, sing, and distribute the bread and wine to tables.

As the words of the story of Jesus’ last meal with his friends are read, people at each table hold up the bread. It is broken, and passed around, from person to person, each saying, “The body of Christ, for you.” We eat and enjoy each other’s company.

Outdoor Agape Peacemeal CreationThen, as more of the story is read, and Jesus does the same, some one holds up the central glass of wine. It too is passed around (with other festive juices and non-alcoholic drink options), with the words, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.”

As the evening turns quieter, more of the story is read, the foot washing from the Gospel of John. And quietly we wash each other’s feet. And then finally the altar is stripped, and we leave in silence.

At New Life, this meal is distinctively and intentionally an Agape meal; a remembrance of early Christian tradition of table fellowship, modelled on the last supper.

This meal…is a remembrance of early Christian tradition of table fellowship, modelled on the Last Supper.

It is not a Seder meal. Though Jesus and his friends may have gathered that night as part of their Passover celebration, that tradition is not part of our Christian worship history, and we do not appropriate them.

Passover traditions are so rich in Jewish communities around the world, and have evolved over the centuries as all traditions do, incorporating rituals and components not present in the meal Jesus shared thousands of years ago in Jerusalem. That rich tradition took its own path.

Seeing the Seder meals of our Jewish friends and neighbors, it is easy to want that type of meal – intentionally intergenerational, interactive, in turns celebratory and serious. A meal that is meant to tell a story, and a meal that takes its time.

Outdoor-Agape-New-Life-Church-CreationI believe we can have such meaningful and inclusive rituals in our own tradition. The Agape meal is one of those moments, set in the larger series of interactive worship experiences of Holy Week.

If we embody the story of that week – tasting a meal, feeling water on our feet, walking through stations of the cross – we experience it in a different and deeper way.

If we embody the story of Holy Week – tasting a meal, feeling water on our feet, walking through stations of the cross – we experience it in a deeper way.

For children, in particular, this opens up ways of hearing and incorporating this story.

At New Life, children participate in all aspects of worship every week, but especially during Holy Week. On Thursday, they enjoy worship around a table, and hear the story of that famous meal.

When the grand procession had turned quickly to a dark darting, though quiet streets, to a secret room. Where Jesus interrupted the meal strangely with talk of his body and blood in the bread and wine; and where he turned the whole evening awkward by insisting on bathing their feet.

As the disciples scattered into the night, full of questions, so do we.

Outdoor Agape New Life Creation PeacemealThe next day the children will return to walk trails and hear of the day’s long journey through the city to the place outside the city walls where Jesus would die.

On Sunday they will return to dig up the buried Alleluia banner, and sing that joyous word again in joyful songs, knowing that the dark parts of the story had to be walked through, but did not win.

The meal is an important punctation point in that week and that story. A moment of respite and peace for Jesus and his friends, and for us as we contemplate the powerful story of Lent and Easter.

And then, after the Resurrection, Jesus finds them walking again, on another confusing journey, and joins them for supper. He reveals himself in the breaking of the bread. Again.

To hold up the bread, to break it, to give it to others at the table, while enjoying a meal in community. This, I believe, they will remember. This, I believe, will help them know deeply that this story is their story.


Read more from New Life Church in the Communion in Nature with Children story.

Photo credit: Jim Woodard

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is an innovative idea that sets the table for peace-making.

Within the context of a shared meal, two groups of people from different countries are brought together.

Both sides are linked by video conferencing, hence the ‘virtual’ part of the project’s title. The participants ask each other questions and learn about each other’s culture while enjoying their food.

At the end, each side poses a final question to the other. They then take back the question to their own streets, talking to ordinary people and learning about their own communities. The entire thing is filmed, producing a collaborative film which is then shared with the rest of the world.

We spoke to Eric from the Virtual Dinner Guest project to find out more…


How did the Virtual Dinner Guest project originally start?

Well, I’m going to have to go back a bit here to give some context.

I completed my graduate field research in the West Bank, studying international conflict resolution. I travelled back and forth across the wall, to interview people who had gone through the creation of the state of Israel.

After running around with a camera – I knew nothing about film – I had a very basic documentary, which was just filming people in their kitchens and getting some environment shots. That led to winning a grant from the film office in New Mexico. I received a small amount of funding to go and do a similar project, but this time across the US – Mexico border.

US Mexico Border Virtual Dinner Guest Project
US-Mexico Border, Nogalez, Sonora, Mexico (Many of the crosses read ‘Desconocido’ or ‘unknown’).

I started travelling back and forth across the border, doing street interviews, going into people’s homes and just trying to orient myself with all the different stakeholders in that conflict. People who are for the existing fence, people who are against it, from all walks of life.

At some point in 2009 or 2010, I had an epiphany. I thought, ‘I don’t want to be the filter here.’ People need to talk to each other directly, Americans need to listen to Mexicans and vice versa.

I wanted to figure out a way to get people to sit and talk together in an informal way, without any imbalance in power dynamic; and without creating something that’s culturally familiar to one side and not the other. It’s important that everyone’s on an equal footing.

So I thought, well, food and dinner are two things that everyone has experienced. The dinner table is a common place for people to discuss all manner of subjects. The dinner table is arguably the world’s oldest and most universal social form. All people know how to create community around food.

The dinner table is arguably the world’s oldest and most universal social form. All people know how to create community around food.

I decided to have a dinner in Juarez, Mexico, just across the river from El Paso, Texas.

I published a story in the local paper about it: the context was meeting with local Mexican families and having them agree to put Skype in their living rooms and connect to people in the US.

I did a couple of these encounters, and then some people in Pakistan found out about what we were doing and they wanted to do it, too. So, I did another connection from New Mexico to Karachi, then one to an NGO in Uganda. Since then, I’ve been all over.

Virtual Dinner Juarez Mexico
Getting ready for the first ever Virtual Dinner in Juarez, Mexico.


When people take part in a virtual dinner, do they cook something from each other’s countries?

The ideal scenario is that you cook a recipe from the other side.

You can then open the dinner with talking about your experience of cooking and eating it. You’re literally being nourished by the other culture as you open the engagement.

Virtual Dinner Guest food Cairo
Traditional Yemeni food.

But what do you do when you’re connecting the Netherlands to Mexico? Mexican food is easy enough but what’s the other side going to do?

If it’s a place like India and Pakistan where the food is pretty similar, that’s its own kind of icebreaker. More or less Urdu and Hindi are the same language and they can see how the food is similar too.

However, I’m working out in countries where sometimes the infrastructure, or attitudes about punctuality, make it difficult to do a lot of preparation.


Are these dinners only possible where both sides speak the same language?

I’m glad you asked that. It’s an Anglo-centric project, which is a limiting factor.

If everybody’s speaking English on both sides of the connection, and you’re in a country where most of the population doesn’t speak English, you’ve reinforced all sorts of class divisions.

When we go out on the street, we conduct all the interviews in the local language, we don’t select people for their ability to speak English at all. In India we had to use five languages: English, Hindi and 3 local languages.

When we go out on the street, we conduct all the interviews in the local language…In India we had to use five languages.

In the Middle East it’s mostly done in Arabic. My Arabic isn’t great, and I couldn’t moderate one of these conversations.

I’ve done a few where I’ve said, “Look, I’m the only obstacle here to clear communication, so speak Arabic and I’ll trust that you’re going to have an interesting conversation.”

Egypt dining with The Netherlands.


Where does film-making come into the project?

The reason that we do the film-making is that just having people meet to talk and eat, can be insufficient to create any kind of measurable impact.

There are five to seven people on each side (any more than that and it can lose its intimacy) and how is anyone else going to see this if it’s only fourteen people at a time?

So, we give the participants something to do that gets them out in front of the public. That’s where the film-making part comes in. There’s more to it than just creating content. Getting people to go out on the street is a transformative process in itself.

There’s more to it than just creating content. Getting people to go out on the street is a transformative process in itself.

Virtual Dinner Guest Project Creativity Peacemeal
Syrian refugee camp, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

If you’re a cultural elite in your country, say it’s a developing country, you might have more in common with the people on the US side of the connection than you do with the public in your own country.

You’d have a privileged background, an English language education and the free time to do something like this.

It’s a requirement that they go and interact with people that they might normally ignore, people in their own community.

In doing that they have their minds opened, and by filming it they are sharing that new understanding with others.


So, then you end up doing some sort of internal peace-making within the country, as well as peace-making between different nations and cultures.

Exactly. And I think that’s essential.

That was a failing that I realised I had, after a year and a half of doing this project. It was emphasising too much the kind of exotic nature of these intercultural connections, instead of realising that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done within these communities.

There’s tons of prejudice within any community. There were Egyptians that wouldn’t meet me in downtown Cairo, or when they did come they were taking selfies and treating is as if it was an exotic place to be.

I’d say that 80% of the actual work that takes place is through interface with your own community.

Virtual Dinner Guest project filming
Street interviews in Amsterdam for The Virtual Iftar Project: Amsterdam-Gaza.


Is that one of the things which makes the Virtual Dinner Guest project special? That it shows the full diversity of the community and makes people more ‘human’ to each other?

Absolutely, that’s a huge part of it.

The content of what people are saying matters, but in some ways it’s just about putting a face and a voice to a particular group. When people sit down and eat together, it’s a purely practical way of connecting.

When people sit down and eat together, it’s a purely practical way of connecting.

Coming from a pretty conservative background, I’ve had a lot of awakening experiences in my travels through random acts of charity and hospitality. In a lot of places where I’ve travelled, hospitality is a real point of cultural pride.

Virtual Dinner Guest Project Gaza Food
Family dinner in Gaza City, Gaza, Palestine.

For people who’ve never met a Palestinian before, their idea of a Palestinian could be an amalgam of various stereotypes, based on recycled media presentations of extremism and violence.

But if your first actual encounter takes place through something like the VDG project, you just see some guy in Gaza, bouncing his kid on his knee and eating a meal with his family.

That makes it difficult to maintain a simplistic view of someone’s identity.

Travelling in the Middle East, I started interacting with people within those communities and realised that Muslims are just as diverse as Christians are.

Not everybody takes their religion super seriously in Muslim countries, and the overwhelming majority of those who are devout are not extreme or violent people. That’s the reality I’ve encountered, face-to-face, in many Muslim majority countries.


This project could connect different faiths, but also people of the same faith with different understandings. Have you ever done this project with churches?

That’s a good question. I’m not particularly religious but a lot of my programming is focused on religion or faith, particularly the Islamic faith.

I’m really down for interfaith work, but I have to make it clear that we’re a non-partisan, non-sectarian organisation.

I’d love to get Christians from rural Texas speaking to Maronite Christians from Lebanon, I mean they’re barely going to recognise each other’s faiths. I think intra-faith projects could be very interesting, but interfaith work is so critical right now.

Virtual Dinner Guest Project Food Peacemaking Creativity
Beirut dines with Amsterdam.


What effect do you think that the Virtual Dinner Guest project has on the people that take part? Have you had any feedback from participants?

The anecdotal examples are abundant.

I remember one occasion when we were going around with an all-female team in Bangalore, India. We’d connected India and Brazil, and the Brazilian group had given the Indian group a question about women’s rights.

We went around Bangalore for a few days asking questions about the state of women’s rights in India. We spoke to everybody that we could get to talk to us on camera, from the tuk-tuk drivers to university professors who were having their lunch, and beggars in the streets.

I remember at one point a participant said, “I can’t remember the last time I spoke to so many strangers in an afternoon.”

I remember at one point a participant said, “I can’t remember the last time I spoke to so many strangers in an afternoon.”

There was some reluctance to speak to people who were very poor. Participants were saying that the beggars wouldn’t feel comfortable, that they wouldn’t have much to say.

I took the approach that there would be no harm in asking. There’s something to be said for validating their right to speak.

Virtual Dinner Guest project filming
Street interviews in Bangalore, for VDG Project India-Brazil.


How can people support the project or maybe, if they felt inspired, do something like this themselves?

The short answer is that if people want to support the project, they can go to Open Roads Media website (our NGO based in Amsterdam), or to the Virtual Dinner Guest website to donate.

Virtual Dinner Guest Project
Street interviews in Pristina, Kosovo, for the Virtual Iftar Project.

We need cash to be able to start thinking about our next project. After five years of running around with a backpack and a laptop, everything is starting to fall apart and we need new equipment.

If people want to take part in the project, that requires a budget. Typically, we need an institution to provide the funding.

We work with universities, small media outlets, or small NGO’s to collaborate on a project artistically. They might also provide the participants with the basic media skills to be able to do the film-making side of the project.

You might know of an organisation or community that funds things like this. If you want to do the project, you can reach out to me and we’ll talk about finding a funder.

Find out more about the Virtual Dinner Guest Project

Virtual Dinner Guest Project Peacemeal Creativity
Beirut talks to students at Yale University.

All the information you need, including how to support or get involved with the Virtual Dinner Guest project, is available on the Virtual Dinner Guest website.

The Virtual Dinner Guest film archive lets you watch some of the videos made as a result of the ‘virtual dinners’ and the street conversations that took place afterwards.

All images reproduced with permission from the Virtual Dinner Guest Project.


St. John’s Church Peace Meal Project, USA

Thanks to Phyllis Jacobson from St. John’s Church for this story.

St. John’s Episcopal Church, in St. Louis MO, is one of the oldest congregations in the Diocese of Missouri. It got a new lease on life in 2004, with a newly appointed full-time rector who was also a community organiser. She had a burden to open the church to the community and to share food as part of this.

In her own words: “On September 30, 2006, we began a free fellowship meal for all, which we now serve every Saturday from 4:00 – 5:30 pm in the Parish Hall.

We call this meal program the Peace Meal Project because we know that a meal is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing poverty, inequality, and loneliness.

But, we also believe that sharing a fellowship meal together brings us closer to the Reign of God that we hope for – a community of justice, peace, and dignity for all people.”

“Sharing a fellowship meal together brings us closer to the Reign of God that we hope for – a community of justice, peace, and dignity for all people.”

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA Caring

From just one congregation involved, the program has grown to involve eleven congregations: most Episcopal, but also Roman Catholic, Mennonite, and Presbyterian. These serve on a rotating basis, so each group comes about five times a year.

Most of these are suburban congregations, so participation in PeaceMeal affords them an opportunity to interact with ‘city’ folks. There are also two special groups, one a family group and one a Scout group, which take one week a year.

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA CaringEach week, one of our ‘Food-safe’ certified St. John’s members co-ordinates the programme and supervises the volunteer teams as they prepare, cook, serve, and clean up.

Usually one set of workers from the volunteer congregation cooks and sets up and another serves and cleans up. Since all involved work on a rotating basis, burnout is largely avoided.

Each coordinator plans the menu of the week, taking note of what is available in the pantry and what has been cooked recently – so there is lots of variety. The coordinator shops or takes advantage of a volunteer ‘shopper’ and, if desired, a ‘menu planner’ too.

Besides the wonderful volunteer involvement, many contribute toward the cost of the meal program. The Diocese of Missouri Task Force for the Hungry has been a major supporter. Also the churches involved and individuals who care about this ministry have helped greatly.

One of the congregations also has a farm, the Good Shepherd Farm. Each week the PeaceMeal program is notified about what vegetables are available and the coordinator incorporates these into the menu.

One Saturday, when parishioners from Good Shepherd had volunteered to prepare and serve the meal, one of the older guests asked about the salad.

St Johns Peace Meal Project USA CaringWhen she learned that the ingredients were from Shepherd Farm and that some of the gardeners were also preparing and serving the meal that day, she asked to speak with one of the gardeners.

She wanted to say how much she appreciated their efforts. With tears in her eyes, she said that until that day, she had not had a fresh radish since she was a child, when her grandmother grew them.

Imagine going decades without a fresh radish… it also brought a giant lump to the volunteer’s throat.

Another great contribution comes from the Panera Bread Company. Each Friday night a volunteer picks up the leftover bread from one of the stores. The breads are used at the meal but most are bagged for the guests to take home.

Here are a few comments from the guests, many of whom do not have a regular source for good food:

“I love, love, love Peace Meal! I made great friends while having great meals. These people at St. John’s are my best friends.”

“I really love Peace Meal, particularly the overall dining experience of making everything interrelated from prayer, fellowship, Bible sessions at evening prayer, as well as wholesome foods that are very nutritious…”

“I recently moved back here after many years and know very few people.  This generous setting is a wonderful way to fight isolation and find friends.  Your church is a life – giver. “

A couple named Mark and Dave are regular volunteers and financial contributors from the St. John’s congregation. They had this to say about the Peace Meal Project:

“We both grew up in homes where hospitality and food were readily shared with family and friends.  Somehow there was always enough to share even though neither one of our families was very well off at all.

When we got married and began our own household, we each felt committed to that same sense of hospitality – it has always been important to us that our home is a welcoming home and a place where there seems to always be enough…

The Peace Meal involvement for us is a natural extension of that hospitality and sharing the blessings that we have been given with those who have less.  It is a mutual benefit as it reminds us to be aware of a sense of “enough-ness” and to count our blessings every day.”

Find out more about the St. John’s Peace Meal Project

If you want more information about the Peace Meal Project at St. John’s church, please visit the St. John’s Church website.

Read more inspiring stories like this in the Caring category of the Peacemeal website.

Communion in Nature with Children

Carmen Retzlaff, Pastor at New Life Lutheran Church in Texas, reflects on the special place of children in communion, with readings and reflections for Holy Week.

Matthew 21:1 “Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’

Hosanna in the highest!”

And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Children Communion Peacemeal Texas USA

Matthew 26:17 “Now on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.”

So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?”

He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.”

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Children Communion Texas USA Peacemeal

As we approach Holy Week this year, I am watching the children. I am watching them run and play and climb trees and work in the garden, here at our outdoor church in the Hill Country of Texas. I am watching them and thinking about how they experience church here. And, more than that, how they lead us into a deeper experience of church and the presence of holiness.

In artistic depictions of Palm Sunday, there are often children. Artists show children joyfully waving branches, running alongside the donkey, even climbing trees along the roadway during this celebration. And so it must have been; and so it is.

On Palm Sunday at New Life, as we process down the hill, the children are enthusiastic about waving branches and shouting – things that children, and the children in all of us, love to do. Worship with movement, covering distance, is appealing to children.

Embodied worship, enacted ritual. They are so needed on Palm Sunday, because they help the adults remember to smile, and to have fun. To lay aside our self-consciousness and enjoy walking and waving and shouting. Because Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem that day was a celebration. Children lead us.

In contrast, artistic depictions of Maundy Thursday, the day we commemorate the Last Supper, rarely show children. We are most familiar with the painting by Leonardo DaVinci, which is an accurate portrayal of the meal from the point of view of the residents of the monastery in which it was hung— twelve Northern Italian men at a meal.

A different depiction was painted by Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki in 1998, commissioned by an Irish Catholic group which advocates for women’s ordination. It includes women and children—as a Passover supper would have, and really, must: The Passover ritual is one of passing on the faith and the story of the people to the next generation.

Last Supper Painting Peacemeal
Image credit:

And I find it interesting that children are easily seen in the rowdy, celebratory parts of the story, and less frequently shown at the serious moments. As if they are never serious, or thoughtful. As if they do not have a sense of the mystery and solemnity of our rituals and our stories.

At New Life, children often help serve communion. They hold the cup and say the words with reverence, “The blood of Christ, shed for you.” At New Life, children take communion. Their eyes are often wide as I place the bread in their hands, “This is the body of Christ, for you.” Or their eyes are averted. They understand the intensity of this moment, in a way that adults have forgotten.

Again, they lead us. They take mystery at face value. Which is to say several things: they question it boldly, and they accept it willingly. Often they confess to me a slight revulsion toward the words and the ritual—“Why are we eating Jesus’ body and drinking his blood?”

Children Communion Texas USA Peacemeal

But they watch, and they see the adults come forward with care, and sometimes even with tears in their eyes. And they understand. And what they understand is what we who are older have often forgotten. That some things are impossible to understand.

Children can sense the change in the mood. They can, I believe, feel the very presence of the Holy Spirit, because they are open to such things. They have not closed off those receptors.

They understand that sometimes the only understanding comes in the uneasiness itself. And in the risk of coming forward. And in the tasting and the chewing—taking the ritual and the history and the mystery into the body itself.

Christianity is a corporal religion, based on the story of a God who took on our flesh, was born to this world and walked in it, and died our very death so that we could know once and for all how precious we are, and that love and life win in the end.

As we enter Holy Week, let us follow the children. Let us feel and taste and touch the mystery of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Watch how they willingly take on sorrow and fear, and then are able to fling themselves full force into joy. If you are fortunate enough this week to be served communion by a child, know that you are blessed.

About New Life Church

New Life Lutheran Church meets in Dripping Springs, Texas, USA. The following is taken from the New Life Church website:

“We worship outdoors, year round. We care for the beautiful piece of the Texas Hill Country with which we have been entrusted, and we create space on the land for others to enjoy nature and sanctuary. We value and intentionally include children. We work together in our community, getting to know and serving our neighbors.”


Peacemeals in Iraq: Lessons in Resilience

Cath Thompson tells us about running therapeutic cooking classes in Iraq for internally displaced refugee women.

In 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) swept through the northern regions of Iraq and captured, killed, enslaved, or forcibly converted many civilians. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were displaced from their homes, and now live indefinitely in camps administered by the United Nations.

Peacemeals Iraq refugee camp

I was invited by an NGO to help set up therapeutic cooking classes at a community centre which primarily assists IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons, or refugees in their own country).

I wrote a curriculum, which was translated into Arabic, and planned to train a local teacher to lead the classes once I left.

Getting Started

My first lessons in patience and protocol came when I was tasked to procure the cooking items for the kitchen.

Peacemeals Iraq market

Everything there takes time. You can’t just go to one store and buy everything you need in one go. Conversations are held and prices negotiated and family heritages compared.

Multiple glasses of tea are drunk, to lubricate the deals of procuring 60 sets of plates (and temporary residency papers, and marriages, and ceasefires, and so on…)

Then I met the teacher, who I will call Hana*. She was a dignified, tiny lady who lived in a tent in a refugee camp with her 6 children. Hana was smart. She had taken the initiative to cook small pastries and baklava and sell them in the market to make a little money for her family.

Working with a local translator, I was there to train Hana in how to teach a cooking class for other women like her. But this class went beyond how to chop onions and prevent cross contamination.

We also wanted to teach coping skills and stress management techniques, and how to actually savour your food and find joy when you are constantly living in crisis mode. All these life skills are built into the curriculum, and have always been the foundation of PeaceMeals.

This class was meant to be a small space of solace and catharsis for survivors: in the kitchen, around the table, then eventually to their wider communities.

Peacemeala Iraq kitchenWe had eight students in this class, plus the teacher I was training, and my translator. The women had never seen a professional kitchen, so we began with the basics: how to use the dishwasher, washing your hands, using separate rags to dry dishes and clean equipment, pulling your hair back (most wear headscarves), etc.

Lessons in Resilience

The best part of those classes was watching them come out of their wounded – and sometimes traumatized – shells. During the first class, barely anyone spoke except to ask me exactly the next step they should do in each recipe. They were afraid of getting it wrong and had very little confidence to take initiative and ask questions.

Peacemeals Iraq womenIn time, after Hana* and I explained the recipes, the students started to take charge and cook without having to verify if they were doing it right. Just halfway through the course, the women were talking with each other, asking loads of questions, and – most importantly – laughing.

Each day when the food was ready, we sat down together in one of the classrooms and ate, and had more guided discussion about self-care skills, stress management, values and goals, their daily struggles, and other relevant psychosocial topics.

Every meal was a lesson in resilience. We sat down and enjoyed it, in defiance of the evil that had tried to crush their spirits.

Everyone has a Story

For one class, we prepared a nice spread of Moroccan eggplant spread, individual lamb pies, and cucumber-yogurt salad with dill.

While eating, we went through a small mindful eating exercise with a date dessert, and I explained to the women that this class is meant for them to enjoy, relax and taste the food they make.

It was a radical concept for these women to have the first go at eating the foods they make, and to savour them.

Usually they procure and prepare food for their family, and they eat the remaining leftovers. It was nice to have them be the guests of honour at the table for once.

One woman offered to the class a bit of her story and explained that she sometimes falls down when she is triggered or scared. Falling down is a common post-traumatic expression here, especially for women. I was instructed to watch out for some women in the kitchen so that they aren’t working with knives, fire, or standing near sharp countertop corners, if they may be triggered.

Graduation Day

Peacemeals Iraq graduation feastThe therapeutic cooking class graduation will go down in my history as one of the most precious days of my life. I am so proud of these ladies for all they accomplished during the cooking course.

Graduation day was a lesson in catering, as we planned out the menu and cooking schedule. Over the course of two days, the students made an enormous spread of food, with healthier twists than the typical local foods.

After a family-style meal for guests and staff, we held a ceremony where the eight students received graduation certificates and the small gift of an apron.  They were so proud of themselves and I felt just like a mama hen.

Peacemeals Iraq offeringAfter weeks of hard work, big meals, and lots of laughs, I am confident that these women will bring their new skills into their families, communities, and, in effect, to this beautiful and broken country.

*Name has been changed for security reasons.

This story has been adapted from these original posts with the permission of the author: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4

About the Author

Cath Thompson is the founder and director of PeaceMeals – a program which brings individuals together in the kitchen and around the table for education on cooking, nutrition, and wellness, often in the wake of trauma or difficult seasons of life.

Peacemeals Iraq CathCath has a background in peacebuilding and security, while working in the charitable and philanthropic sectors. Cath loves to gather people around the table to be nourished across the divides of culture, politics, and religion, through good food, good conversation, and good community.

Colin Glen Community Garden

Cath Thompson tells us about a community meal in Belfast, made with fresh produce from a unique peace-building garden.

Whilst living in Belfast, Northern Ireland, I learned much about cross-community peacebuilding through the relationships I formed, through my studies, and especially by holding PeaceMeals.

PeaceMeals is a program I started to bring individuals to the kitchen and around the table to learn about cooking, nutrition, and wellness – with the goal of forming supportive community and being fully nourished.

Welcome to the garden

In Belfast, I was introduced to the Colin Glen Community Garden and Allotments. This peacebuilding project brings the community together to grow some of their food in a local, sustainable and organic way.

Colin-Glen-Community-Garden-PeacemealIt was such a natural fit with what we do at PeaceMeals, so we used some of their produce and hosted a PeaceMeal, in partnership with Groundwork NI. We cooked up a delicious and nourishing brunch with lots of locally-sourced, organic produce.

The community at Colin Glen has been building a garden in their neighbourhood as a development project that is both practical and beautiful.

I was so impressed by the overabundance of rainbow chard, rocket, herbs, rhubarb, potatoes, and gorgeous edible flowers, many of which I had never seen before. Never before had a PeaceMeal been so locally-sourced!

From conflict to cooking

As everyone assembled and sipped their green smoothies, we shared stories of memorable meals (steamed fish cooked only once per month because it was so stinky!) and growing up during tough times in this neighbourhood.

The menu focused on “calming” foods, combining lots of calcium and magnesium, as well as B vitamins. Everyone “mucked in” (as they say here in Belfast) to cook a hearty menu including a crust-less chard, mushroom, gruyere and walnut quiche.

There was also warm herbed potato salad, locally foraged green salad with goat’s cheese and honey mustard and dill dressing, and a strawberry and rhubarb oat crumble with homemade vanilla frozen yogurt.

We chatted and laughed and made a mess. Some of the guys even broke into song and dance. Though cooking may seem daunting, getting messy in the kitchen is truly the most human of acts as long as we allow ourselves to have fun.

All of a sudden, the meal was ready! We sat down at the beautiful spread and marvelled at how our hard work had taken us from garden to kitchen to table.

Also, sitting in the community centre which was formerly the headquarters of the commanding police officer, we marvelled at how far the community had come: from conflict to community gardening to cooking. Total transformation!

I applaud the Colin Glen community for their hard work and determination to transform formerly derelict spaces and relationships into places of life and abundance. And I can’t wait to see what the harvest produces next!

About the author

Cath Thompson is the founder and director of PeaceMeals, a program which brings individuals together in the kitchen and around the table for education on cooking, nutrition, and wellness, often in the wake of trauma or difficult seasons of life.

Cath has a background in peacebuilding and security, while working in the charitable and philanthropic sectors. Cath loves to gather people around the table to be nourished and refreshed across the divides of culture, politics, and religion, through good food, good conversation, and good community.

Story adapted from this original post and republished with permission of the author.

Modern Neighborliness, USA

To be understood as to understand

Thanks to Cath Thompson for this story, which has been adapted from this original post and republished with permission from the author.

In the midst of race-based violence in America, has anyone else been wondering, “what is my role?” Over the past year or so, I have been repeatedly wondering how I can be a helper and not a harmer (is that a word?), while also acknowledging my privilege.

Perhaps you come from a place of privilege or perhaps you know what it means to be discriminated against (or perhaps both…) How can you be part of the solution, wherever you sit in the wide spectrum of the human family? How can you be an ally to the hurting? Are “solutions” and “being an ally” too presumptive?

Where do we even begin?

I am a firm believer that the first and best thing is always to listen. Do not craft action plans without considering what’s at stake. So many of us desire foremost to be heard, to know that our stories and pain are held as valuable, and to have others simply walk alongside in our healing journeys. “Solutions” may or may not ever materialise, and sometimes that’s ok.

I believed for a long time that I didn’t have much to offer, because I was on the ‘outside’ of populations who are most seriously affected by our deepest social injustices. I didn’t know what would be meaningful enough, and if I did do anything, it risks being seen as tokenism, right?

But with the violence of this summer, I couldn’t do nothing. I desired so deeply to discuss these issues with people different than myself, so I finally did the realest thing I know how to do: make a meal.

I approached leaders at Downtown Hope which is a Christian community in Annapolis, Maryland. Their mission statement reads: “Our prayer is that Annapolis would be a city where all spheres of culture flourish, where God’s shalom is present…where guns used to murder are melted down into gardening tools used to cultivate, where drug dealers sell nectarines instead of narcotics on street corners.”

With their help, I organised an open potluck for people who were interested in discussing questions of identity, community, and racial reconciliation, through the lens of faith. We had folks show up from a diverse set of neighbourhoods in the city, and a fabulous spread of food.

The group explored “modern neighbourliness” in this age of virtual and digitized relationships (Modern wisdom from a participant: think before you post). We got to know each other on a human level by responding to questions about our backgrounds, interests, and experiences growing up in the community.

I found the perspectives from the older folks to be very different from those of Millenials in the room, with the Millenials more cynical about hope for reconciliation and peace in the streets.

We ended the meal with the Prayer of Saint Francis, an oldie but a goodie, that seems more like a battle cry than a poem to me these days. While our meal barely scratched the surface of all that is needed, it was one teeny tiny work of facing into the tough questions, and perhaps it was one tiny brick laid in the long road of reconciliation.

The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

About the author

Cath Thompson is the founder and director of PeaceMeals, a program which brings individuals together in the kitchen and around the table for education on cooking, nutrition, and wellness, often in the wake of trauma or difficult seasons of life.

Cath has a background in peacebuilding and security, while working in the charitable and philanthropic sectors. Cath loves to gather people around the table to be nourished and refreshed across the divides of culture, politics, and religion, through good food, good conversation, and good community.

Monday Night Open Table

Ryan Cook, chaplain at Liverpool University, shares what he’s learned from over 2 years of opening his home and table on a Monday evening. Republished and adapted with permission from this original post.

For the last 2.5 years we’ve opened our doors on a Monday evening for friends, neighbors and strangers to come eat with us. No grand, mechanistic plan, we just wanted to know people.

We were also looking for a way to live our faith — the love and welcome of Jesus — in a concrete way. Simple idea, really, yet it has been a powerful experience for myself and others, more powerful than I can probably articulate. Hundreds of beautiful people have come through our doors, all changing us in one way or another.

Moments of beauty

I am left pondering the many unpredictable moments of beauty. Like the time I met a person in a coffee shop that had just moved to the city, invited her for dinner, and in two months she will be baptized and confirmed. Or like two weeks ago, when I was riding in a cab and the taxi driver looked at me and said, “I’ve been to your house for dinner. I was homeless then, but have got me-self on me feet now.” (Said in a beautiful Scouse accent).

Or the time we provided halal BBQ food (thanks, Joe), and one gentleman as he was leaving hugged me, looked into my eyes and in a heartfelt way said, “Thank you for making food I can eat, and for your generous welcome.”

There are too many experiences to recount in a simple blog post, really.

The world put right

I’ve learned that the table is a powerful symbol of a world put right. At the table you look people in the eyes. The surface of the table is level. It creates an environment whereby you reach your hands into the same pot, take from the same food, to sustain your lives in the same way.

It’s a levelling act. You have come in need of the same thing, and you get that need met by performing the same actions at the same time. All while facing each other, in the flesh; skin and bones – real humans on real journeys.

Over the last 2.5 years the rich and poor, educated and non-educated, young and old, have performed this common levelling act together. When the host has prepared the food, everyone receives as a guest, regardless of what one’s status is on the way in the door — we are all guests around the table.

I often watched as people who would never connect in a hierarchical world spoke to each other, came to appreciate each other, and often became friends.

During one event at Christmas, a man whose life had in many ways been destroyed by alcohol and hard living jumped on our piano after dinner. He began playing songs and those present tried singing along with him. He was entertaining, giving, providing joy for other folks very unlike him.

The sweetest moment happened when a friend, an accomplished musician who plays for the philharmonic orchestra, grabbed her viola and began to play along with him. The sound of these two instruments – from two very different people - was more to me than just a nice melody; it was the sound of community. A place where people of difference forgot their status and found harmony that went beyond music.

Sharing the burden

I’ve also learned that people often carry burdens that, in the normal course of life, there is no place to share. There are very few safe places to admit frailty. Some people came for weeks and then – maybe realising that this table was about more than food, that it was about family – shared the personal details of their lives. In the course of doing so they were able to receive prayer and support from those who shared the space with them.

It wasn’t a scripted counselling session, it was a community of friends who began to trust each other enough to ask for help in carrying their burdens. I didn’t plan this, but it happened all the time, especially if the person repeatedly came. Conversations that began at the table, often finished with quiet prayers, for issues I didn’t always know — but the context of food and friendship somehow created the context of burden sharing. So deeply beautiful.

A place of possibility

The table also became a place of possibility. I can’t count the number of times that people would meet around the table and begin talking about what they wanted to do to make a difference in the world. Little projects became reality outside the table.

A group of people decides to read a spiritual book together; another group decides to pursue a creative social justice knitting project; others spontaneously talk to each other about how they can help a mutual friend get through a tough time.

The organic connection in the context of the meal resulted in countless good deeds done by friends. I couldn’t script this.

I was also continually surprised at the number of people with no faith, who eventually prayed at the table. We didn’t pray every week. Sometimes we were aware that there were some people in attendance that would feel deeply uncomfortable with such an activity, so we respected that.

But often if we felt it was respectful and right, we would light the candles at the end of dinner and pray compline. It was always a surprise for me when someone who did not self-identify as ‘religious’ broke out in a prayer about something deeply troubling them. For some, the table became a place of ‘first reaches heavenward’. I will always treasure these moments in my heart.

An unexpected impact

The last thing I will say (I could go on forever), is that I am amazed at what impact small communities of people can have with little resources. On average there are six adults and three children living in our house (plus a deeply committed person who lived outside of the house). Nine (or ten) of us. A small group. None of us rich, none of us very important.

But over the last 2.5 years we had hundreds of people through our doors. We’ve had people that would never have darkened the door of a church unless someone died or was getting married.

And I dare to say, even though I could not have planned it, that some have come and gone, not just with full bellies, but with the sweet taste of Jesus in their mouths; even if they may not have articulated it in such words.

While this journey has taken effort, opening the table to people is something we can all do. It’s not an elite ministry, it’s not a fenced-off-secret-strategy for those ‘in the know’ –  it’s as natural as breathing, and I would dare to say, as necessary as breathing.

Could you open your table?

If Ryan’s story has inspired you to provide a welcome for people in your community, visit the Starting a Peacemeal page for ideas on how to get started.


Interfaith Dinner Dialogues, Washington, USA

“At a time when cultural and religious division is on the rise, people of goodwill are challenged to increase their efforts at building bridges of understanding and solidarity with those who are different. One way of doing so is to explore with others what it’s like to walk in their unique shoes.  During this dialogue each of us will have a chance to share our own stories and also to listen as others relate their own life experiences.”

Interfaith Dinner Dialogues are a project of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, an organisation which brings 11 faiths together in the DC region of the USA.

Around the table, over a simple meal, people of diverse religious and spiritual backgrounds come together to share food and offer their views on life and meaning.

Participants are grouped in hosts’ homes in an effort to achieve religious diversity (the diversity of each group tends to reflect the demographics of our region). A trained facilitator appointed by IFC guides the discussion so that all feel welcome.

Those gathered share around specific questions while the others listen in a spirit of openness and curiosity.

Dinner dialogue Spring 2016

The following story is from Zamin Danty, the Dialogue Facilitator at a Dinner Dialogue held in 2016.

On a Sunday in May, nine Interfaith sojourners met at the home of Peter and Penny K. in Bethesda for an IFC-sponsored dialogue on empathy. A number of us were from more “hybrid” spiritual paths, but others from more defined faith traditions.

Some others of us identified as interfaith or peacemaking activists. In our midst were also a number of people who had international experience or had been diplomats, and one individual who had worked for USAID in Central Asia.  There was also a strong Sufi and contemplative influence present.

A large part of our evening was spent deeply listening to the faith and life journeys of others. One Jewish participant described the choice of her persecuted people as being: staying within your own world and going within, or becoming an activist and joining and identifying with other persecuted peoples.

One Catholic peacemaking activist described her own personal transformative experience of living in a Muslim home.  Another participant shared the powerful life-altering experience of meeting his spiritual teacher in India.

There was also a deep realization that our wounds can be a doorway to feeling for one another. We learned again, that one component in trauma was moral wounding, and that suffering can be an invitation to a greater journey toward healing, community and redemption.

We also touched into the areas of Israeli-Palestinian relationships, the Syrian tragedy, and closer to home the dichotomy of “The Black Lives Matter” movement and the lives of our police. Our Chinese participant also shared about her inner work of reconciling Chinese traditional culture with some Christian beliefs.

One wise diplomat and Vietnam-era military veteran concluded our evening with this thought: We walk in one another’s shoes, to comprehend the narrative of the other, to listen to these, as St. Benedict would say, “with the ear of the heart.”

Republished with permission from The Omega Interfaith Forum.

More about Interfaith Dinner Dialogues

If you want to know more about the project, visit the IFC website.


Eating for Peace in Sri Lanka

Written by Harshadeva Amarathunga, a Sri Lankan peacebuilding correspondent from Insight on Conflict.

Peacebuilding is about gathering with people and working together – talking together, eating together, that’s how we can make strong bonds.

Last month I talked with a Sri Lankan peace activist. I heard a wonderful story about grassroots peace building in Sri Lanka, after the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The grassroots Sri Lankan peacebuilding organisation Samadeepa works with Sinhalese and Tamil people in Anuradapura, central Sri Lanka. The initiative promotes peace education and ethnic harmony between Sinhalese and Tamils.

Samadeepa invites people belonging to Sinhalese and Tamil ethnicities to a community centre to spend a couple of days together. All the participants live together, cook together and eat together during these days.

When they come to Anuradapura to participate in the event everyone brings traditional sweets or food as gifts for others. Chandrarathna Bandara, the organisation’s founder, describes one such event:

“It was a wonderful event. The people who come from Hambantota bring kevum, those from Jaffna bring wade. People coming from Anuradapura bring bananas. You know, it is not a small amount, food for 500 people. Can you imagine that they came with food as gifts for each other?

That is our culture, Sinhala and Tamil people sitting together and eating together. It was beautiful – sharing and eating. For us that is peace and love, what else?”

Peace and love for them is about sharing. Food plays a main role in terms of sharing. People wanted to meet each other. Many Tamil people from Jaffna came to Anuradapura even during conflict time, irrespective of LTTE or Sri Lankan government Army barriers: they came to see each other.

The organisation never charges any money for the participants. As Bandara says, “Peacebuilding is about gathering with people and working together – talking together, eating together, that’s how we can make strong bonds with our culture and other cultures. It means a lot as a community.”

Samadeepa believes the feeling of love can make a difference during violent conflict. Giving gifts is deep-rooted in Sri Lanka culture. Especially if the gift giving is related to food, it symbolises the elements of brotherhood and sisterhood, friendship and solidarity.

“We believe in love and justice. There is no meaning for peace without justice and also there is no meaning for love without justice. We believe that bringing those two concepts together, we need to open up our hearts. Then we can meet each other at heart level. Then again we can live together and eat together, with Tamils and Sinhalese,” adds Bandara.


This is an edited version of the original post, Eating for Peace, republished from the Insight on Conflict blog.

Image credit: Dhammika Heenpella

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Woodlands Community Cafe, Glasgow

“The food here is shared and in that sharing we are all made to feel equal”.

This quote, provided by one of our volunteers, summarises our inclusive and dignified approach. Our work is centred around a shared meal, with people who are the beneficiaries being actively involved in its preparation, cooking and serving.

Woodlands Community Garden’s Pop-up Café offers an alternative approach to most food banks. The café is really welcoming and friendly; without any referral criteria, vouchers or limits on how often people can attend. And the food is free!

One guest said: “I came to the café as I can’t afford to buy food and am relying on my friend every day to feed me and my daughter. I really liked how you didn’t need to bring any papers to prove something.”

Woodlands Community Cafe PeacemealOur vegetarian community café takes place on Monday evenings, feeding an average of 60-70 people per week, with meals cooked using fresh ingredients; including those grown at our community garden.

We also run regular cookery workshops both at the café and in partnership with other local organisations.

The strength of our community café lies in that there is no distinction between those providing the aid and those receiving it; all are actively encouraged to volunteer in our work. The food we serve is high quality, freshly prepared and of the same quality you would expect in an expensive restaurant.

The café has a very welcoming atmosphere, with music workshops and performances adding to its ambience. It is very much a positive place to come. By encouraging a healthy vegetarian diet, we are making permanent changes in people’s perception towards food. Another guest commented:

“I am disabled and often don’t eat well due to fatigue. Coming to the café means I get good healthy food and vegetarian food”.

Woodlands Community Cafe PeacemealOur café not only provides access to good, fresh and healthy food, it also enables communities from all backgrounds to socialise in a safe welcoming environment.

Volunteers who we train and support are gaining skills, confidence and self-esteem and our work has had a transformative effect on people attending.

One volunteer said: “Volunteering at Woodlands Community café and garden, working alongside a group of positive and encouraging people, attending a variety of trainings and getting the support and friendship from the Woodlands team has helped me and gave me the courage and confidence to look for a job.”

About Woodlands Community Development Trust

Woodlands Community Development Trust is a registered charity concerned with the long term regeneration of Woodlands area of Glasgow – its economy, its environment, its facilities and the ‘spirit’ of Woodlands. Our key aims include supporting community-based education activities, promoting the health and well-being of our community, encouraging participation in community arts and the advancement of environment protection.

Text and images republished with permission from Woodlands Community Development Trust.

‘Green Sabbath’ Friday Night Dinner

Mina Tilt tells us about her personal ‘Green Sabbath’ spiritual practice and the Friday night dinner which forms an essential part of this.

‘Green Sabbath’ is a practice that I’ve developed in recent years. I’ve been developing, over a ten-year period, an understanding of the teachings of Jesus in his native Aramaic language/culture; and it’s truly been a life transforming process. I’ve also found myself drawing deep on personal childhood experience of living (for a time) with a family of orthodox Jews.

The result is a bit eclectic but it does seem to work. For the most part, this a personal spiritual practice that takes place at home. I find that some ritual helps with the discipline needed to ‘Let go and let God’. I’m certain that increasing serenity that I now feel is down to a recommitment to Shabbat practice.

Friday night dinner forms the centrepiece of our Green Sabbath practice which is inspired both by Earth Hour and traditional Jewish Sabbath practices. The meal itself tends to be quite simple but care is taken to make the table setting as beautiful as possible.

We don’t use any electricity, but we try to take a balanced common sense approach i.e. switching on a light to prevent tripping over our feet is fine! The general ethos is this: we don’t just take a break from the world, but we also give the world a night off from our relentless consumption of its resources.

The blessings I use for candle lighting, wine, water and bread start and end with lines from the Aramaic Lord’s prayer. Below is the basic Sabbath “liturgy” that I use on Friday Nights:

Candle Lighting
Abwoon d’bwashmaya  (The opening line of the Aramaic Lord’s prayer)
Blessed be you Sabbath Giver who rested from your labours.
In this moment of Shalama (Aramaic for Shalom) kindle the spark that brings your light into the world.

Blessing over the wine
Blessed be you, inter-breathing Spirit of Life, who ripens the fruit of the vine.
Fill our cup with your holy essence.

Blessing after washing of hands
Blessed be you, Wellspring of Living Water,
Cleanse our hearts and hands that we may serve your creation afresh.

Blessing over the bread
Blessed be you, Ground of all Being, who brings forth grain from the earth.
Feed us with the bread of life, nourish us with your wisdom.

Hawvlan lachma d’sunqanan yaomana (give us this day our daily bread) said as bread is broken.

Reflections on the Sabbath

Sabbath seems to be not so much about Shalom activism as Shalom de-activism. It’s about taking time off from all our daily activities including (and perhaps most importantly) our spiritual/social activism.

I suspect that it’s no coincidence that the last action taken before lighting the Shabbat candles is the placing of a coin or two in the Tzedakah or Charity box. In doing so, we symbolically give up our desire to control and fix things. It is this relinquishing that enables the restorative power of Sabbath to enter the soul.

For me, Shabbat is all about letting go and receiving from God rather than giving to God.

As a Jewish friend once pointed out, Shabbat practice was unique in an ancient world where sacrifices to God or Gods were the norm. On Sabbath, its God’s abundant gifts to us rather than our gifts to God that are the focus.

On Shabbat, we are spiritually (and physically) rested, refreshed and recharged ready for the week to come. Of the two primary purposes in Jewish life – Tikkun ha-nefesh or mending the soul, and Tikkun ha-olam or mending the world – it’s the former repair of the soul that happens on Shabbat. And when this occurs, the mending of the world flows quite naturally out of Shabbat Shalom.

Birmingham MethSoc Food Exchange Program

“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ” – Matthew 21: 12-13 (NIV)

Turning the tables

I’m sure that to many of you this reading is very familiar, and it is one of my favourites.  I love this reading because Jesus does the opposite of what we expect him to do.  He goes into the temple and turns over the tables of the money lenders.

By doing this, he commits an act of physical protest at the exploitation of the poor in his fathers house.  This reading shows that when we ask the question: “what would Jesus do?” we can legitimately answer: get angry and turn over the tables in the temple.

This portrayal of Jesus is the one I identify most with: the Jesus who is frustrated by the status quo, who wants to change it but can’t see the best way to achieve it.

Tackling injustice

Birmingham Methsoc Food Exchange Peacemeal

Currently, what makes me angry are sandwiches. Hundreds of sandwiches every day go past their sell by date and are destined for the bin.  This is a crazy injustice and it makes me frustrated and angry that I live in a society where the wasting of food is acceptable while so many people go hungry.

This frustration and anger must be transformed into a motivating passion, a passion and a vision to change the world.

Through little acts of kindness or big acts of advocacy we can change the world to be a reflection of his glory. But we shouldn’t be afraid to start this change with anger. This anger and passion should make us jump off the fence we all too often sit on, and into action.

Let this anger and passion make us jump into the complicated and messy world in which we live.  Jesus in this passage not only created a literal mess, he got down and dirty and made a stand, in the complicated and fractured society in which he found himself.

The Food Exchange

In the case of the sandwiches, we started what we now call the UoB Methsoc Food Exchange Program.  The sandwiches which were going to be thrown away from various food outlets on campus are now collected by us, and taken to a soup kitchen in the centre of Birmingham.

I feel that by saving these sandwiches and giving them to those who need them most we are, in a small way, shining God’s light and glory into the darkness of food waste and poverty in the UK.

As followers of Jesus, we should be the counter culture that Jesus led.  We should be the radicals, the misfits, the frustrated, the passionate, the rule breakers and the table turners.  We need to use our anger at injustice to motivate us to create a world and a church which reflects the glory of God.

Thanks to Rachel Allison from the University of Birmingham Methodist Society for this story.

More about the UoB MethSoc Food Exchange

If you want to find out more about the Food Exchange program and perhaps get involved, go to the  Birmingham MethSoc Facebook page for more information.

A Gypsy Community Peacemeal

One evening we gathered, a group of us ladies, to explore the culture and the man of Jesus. Our group consisted of Romany gypsy women, an ex-addict artist, a silver smith, a social worker and a foster carer. All these women have geographical connection, but were in different places in their seeking.

Some of the ladies are long term friends that I have kept for over 20 years, since the days of the local church doing ‘outreach’ to the local gypsy site and some houses on our estate. Over the years, I have had cups of tea, attended weddings and funerals, taught some of them to read and write, laughed and cried with them.

I have kept close bonds and connections with the local gypsy people. I love these people. Their culture and families have taught and educated me and my husband Steve in so many ways. They have looked after us when we have been struggling, they have loved our kids and we are very grateful for these special moments.

In the last year or so, some of them have begun again to seek faith, find answers and sometimes use God to get them out of sticky situations! This was the reply from one lady who I invited to the meal:

“I need it more than you could imagine, all out of faith and searching without finding.  Need a different direction and that’s me, woman, no men, at yours, where I can be me without ever feeling judged for who I am, what I am, where I live or for what’s happening in the rest of the gypsy population!”

That night, we started our evening with an agreement that we had come to share, learn and intentionally discuss the man Jesus. We ate food and drank lemonade as we began to tell our stories and ask our questions.

The evening was a beautiful tapestry of confession, laughter, tears and honesty. One lady told her story of finding God through a Catholic nun, who had cared for her during her addicted days. Another told of a visit to a spiritualist to contact a dead relative. Another told of her reasons for shoplifting and how she felt bad – once speaking it out, she vowed to stop.

Gypsy Community PeacemealThe daughter of one of the ladies asked if she could read to the group from my Bible – she had no idea what she was reading but she read with such passion! The group discussed what it meant and each contributed at their own level and space, listening intently to the others seeking.

Candles were lit to represent our prayers and hopes. These included prayers to stop stealing, stop getting angry and to live in peace. Honest challenges were received as topical discussions were had, including some exploration of traveller beliefs and superstitions.

Steve joined us later, and we were both so wired when our guests left, and so excited about this journey! Peacemeal fits perfectly for me and this group of people… they will never ‘attend church’ but they are keen to be in on what Jesus is doing and pay it forward.

After that first evening, we met a couple of times like this: always eating food and always accepting anyone who came. We’ve included children, too, with the kids picking the concept up easily and feeling a special connection around the table.

Thanks to Holly Grover for this story.

Inspired to start your own Peacemeal group?

Wherever you are, whoever is in your community, you could start a Peacemeal too! Go to our Starting a Peacemeal page for ideas and advice.

Coventry Peace Church

Our little group started life with a bunch of people who wanted to be doing something rather than talking about it – in terms of our expression of the discipleship we take seriously.

We began life therefore with the express intent of cooking a meal twice a month for our local night shelter. The shelter is for asylum seekers and refugees, who come from all over the world. They are offered a meal and a bed for the night, and so the night shelter depends on regular donations of meals.

We felt that we could commit to this twice per month, and initially these were the only times that we met. Our meeting needed to be able to deliver a meal to the shelter at the right time, so we opted for meeting regularly on Monday evenings.

Coventry Peace Church Peacemeal Caring

We began with using the Anabaptist liturgy alongside our chopping vegetables, cooking and eating (prior to delivering the meal, we partake of it ourselves).
However, after a year or so, we decided that we would like to meet in the intervening weeks, and so for the last few years we have met every week.

When we are not chopping and cooking, we still eat together, as this is an important reflection of how Jesus often seemed to meet with people.

Our meetings are relaxed, with the aim of saying a short liturgy together each time (we found the Anabaptist liturgies a bit long, so we use prayers from different traditions), and reading a short passage of Scripture, although sometimes we don’t manage this.

However, we usually do sing! We are unusual in that, although we are small in number (6 or 7), we usually have the possibility of singing in 4 parts. We use Taize or Iona chants. We have some children who come along and this seems to work for us, and gives us great joy.

Coventry Peace Church Peacemeal Caring

We all have particular needs, and we try to support each other both in the ways in which we are trying to live out our committed discipleship in our daily lives, and also in coping with our personal difficulties.

For most of us, there is a strong commitment to work out what our discipleship means in the bigger issues of the world, and there are frequent discussions around the table as we grapple with the global and the personal, in the context of our reading of the gospel and the life of Jesus.

Thanks to Jo Rathbone for this story.

Inspired to start your own Peacemeal?

If this story has inspired you to start a new Peacemeal group where you are, we’d be very happy to help you. Read the tips on our Starting a Peacemeal page to get some ideas.

Already doing something like this in your community? Contact us to share your story – we would love to hear from you.

Sisters of Sparkle

Thanks to Natalie Roberts for this story.

The excitement is growing, as courageously vulnerable women embark on journeys from far flung places of the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands – to gather, to cook, to eat, to support, to heal, to laugh, to dance, to dream.

This weekend, the theme is ‘sparkle’ and we’ve spent weeks exchanging messages to make sparkly dreams a reality.

What we’ll eat, what we’ll wear, the table setting, the playlist, the props… the active anticipation is a sustaining force when we are apart.

An everyday meal will be transformed into something profound, with the power to restore and heal the broken and hurting spirit.


‘Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”’ – C.S. Lewis

Sisters of Sparkle is a small mutual support group. We met at a workshop two years ago and formed an immediate bond. Most of our day to day contact is virtual, supporting each other with the challenges of being ‘neurotypical’ in a relationship with a partner on the autism spectrum.

Sisters-of-Sparkle-Celebration-PeacemealOne of our biggest relationship challenges is sustaining our social and emotional energy or wellbeing – which we call ‘sparkle’.

The challenges of intimacy had taken an emotional toll, with self-esteem and confidence at rock bottom. The recovery journey is tough and slow and mutual support plays a critical part.

Given our distance from each other, we began to meet once or twice a year for a weekend of support, encouragement and inspiration.

Cooking and eating together (which is often problematic at home) is one of the most important aspects of our precious few days together.

We delight in creating a relaxed, spontaneous and ‘sparkling’ space for companionship, chat, laughter, singing and dancing.

Our meals are a celebratory occasion: giving thanks for each other, for our friendship and for the recovery progress we are making, one small step at a time.

This ‘sparkle party’ induces energy, reduces tensions and builds confidence. Prolific chatter and laughter whilst enjoying delicious food gives way to spontaneous singing and dancing into the night.

The sky is clear, the moon is bright, music and dance moves outdoors with neon lights.


‘We spend a few days together and we think we can do anything! On Wednesday I couldn’t remember my own name and now I’m like Wonder Woman!’

Sisters of Sparkle Peacemeal CelebrationWe leave the weekend socially and emotionally re-energised. Our souls have been nourished by food, companionship and mutual understanding.

The challenges of day-to-day life can be faced with a little more patience and understanding. Our recovery journey can continue in the knowledge and spirit of sparkle.

The date for our next weekend away is in the diary and it seems a sparkling barn dance is in the early stages of active anticipation…yee hah!

Living with Asperger’s Syndrome – resources and support

If you are, or think you are, in a relationship with someone on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s Syndrome, and need support, visit Different Together for more information, resources and links to a private discussion Forum and local Meetups.