Today’s guest blogger (and photographer) is Jan Berry Schroeder, Minister for Families, Children and Youth at The Episcopal Church of the Advent, Kennett Square, PA. In this post Jan shares a great idea for an intergenerational activity she has used in her congregation. While Jan’s event centers on Advent, this activity could be adapted to fit most any season in the church. For more information about the Meet and Potatoes event, you can reach Jan at Jan@adventks.org.
In ADVENT, at Advent, we have Meet and Potatoes for everyone!
In my home garden we harvested our potato patch last week. To pull a potato out of the ground, smell the dirt, and tug until the roots give up is a sure fire way to remind yourself that you are attached to the rest of the world. For me – it’s also a full on sensory experience reminding me to finalize details for our annual “Meet and Potatoes” event at our Episcopal Church of the Advent.
A play on words – MEET and POTATOES is exactly what we do. We meet in our Fellowship Hall and bag potatoes for our local food cupboard Christmas boxes.
We schedule it for the Sunday before boxes are distributed which always falls on Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete in Domino Simper! Rejoice in the Lord always!”
To witness 150 people of all ages, sizes and abilities come together around tables festooned in the pink of the day, receive a blessing and produce over 625 – 4 lb. bags of potatoes in under 25 minutes – is to see JOY IN ACTION. It’s fun, fast and furious and everyone REJOICES in spontaneous applause and cheers when we finish! It has become our most requested and beloved best-ever whole church event.
Whether it’s the color pink amidst the seasonal onslaught of red and green, the earthy smell of the potatoes that permeates the room, the yellow CAUTION tapes that keeps eager beavers at bay until it gets cut for “ACTION!” or the contagious laughter that gets caught by all in the room – we know the goodness of community in that hour and it is GOOD. There is harmony, cooperation, friendly competition and focus to get-these-potatoes-bagged-before-service-starts!
Within all the commotion there is also a sacred awareness that what we are doing matters. That like the potatoes attached in the earth, we are ATTACHED to the people in our community who are hungry and need us. If liturgy is the work of the people, then the people bagging potatoes is liturgy in a hands-on-potatoes kind of way.
You can easily replicate this event in your parish this year, but you need to GET STARTED NOW! The first year we did this we got everything together in 4 weeks’ time. Advent is now ten weeks away. Does the thought of moving over a ton of potatoes in to your church sound impossible? It’s not! You can do this! Here’s where to start:
- RESERVE YOUR SPACE for your event in your church! Don’t laugh – this is the hardest part for us! That’s why we start one year out.
- Locate a Food Pantry or similar agency in your area that gives out Christmas or Holiday food boxes.
- Talk with them and identify food that can be purchased in bulk and broken down in to smaller quantities. Think potatoes, rice, carrots, apples, etc. It may even be something they have not been able to include so think outside the box.
- Locate a bulk food supplier. Negotiate price that is as close to cost as possible. Remind them it is for use by two non-profits and can be used as a tax write off. Our total cost for this event is $378.00. Our 48 – 50# bags of potatoes are purchased at cost from a grower (the advantage of country living).
- If money is an issue – seek funding from members who might underwrite the cause; or have youth work to raise the money. Be creative!
- Determine what other supplies you will need. We use 600 #16 paper bags and secure them with red and green garden twine (about 6 balls that we purchase from discount stores). Additional items we use include: old bulletin board paper in pink that we use for table runners, hole punchers, and markers or stamps for children to decorate the bags. Bags can also be decorated in advance by children in Sunday school classes. 600+ bags take time so begin by Thanksgiving if you do this!
- Find people to help prepare the supplies and room for the event. You will need to arrange for transport if the supplier doesn’t deliver.
Prepare Ye The Way! When you put over a ton of potatoes in a room with 150 people or more – preparation is key. We do as much in advance as possible for our event so that all volunteers have to do for each 50# bag of potatoes is divide them evenly in to 14 bags, fold the bags over, punch holes in correct places, tie with twine, and place in a collection container. This includes cutting twine to the right length, and dividing both bags and twine into bundles for use. Otherwise material is easily miscounted and wasted. All instructions are on table tents placed at each table end for reminders. You want things done right the first time, and with easy simple instructions people do it right!
May the joy of Advent be yours in ever more meaningful ways this year. May your work be blessed. May contagious laughter be caught by all who contribute many hands to light work. And may pink emerge among the deep bluesy purple, varied greens and bright red that color the season of this broken world reminding you to Rejoice in the Lord always!