{{featured_button_text}}

A quiet insurgency takes place on the second Wednesdays of the month in the Region. If you blink or chase toddlers, take a long lunch or wax your car, you probably have missed all the fuss. On the second Wednesday at noon, the God Squad unobtrusively gathers. In other communities you might recognize us by a stereotypically bland title like (insert town name) interfaith clergy allegiance or (insert county name) ministerial association, but I prefer the short, but chic title of God Squad. So too, do my colleagues. Not only does the name God Squad have more pizzazz and a lot more style, but this sort of name embraces the vibrancy of who we are and what we really do. If you could suggest a t-shirt vendor, we would be delighted.

The God Squad rises up against hopelessness and meaninglessness within our world. Our task is a sacred work on a very muddy planet. Sadly, far too often our culture feeds a great deal upon negativity and gossip. We have more ‘isms than I can count on my toes. Life on our third rock from the sun holds regular sorts of immorality, too; because too many folks make too many unkind, terrible choices. The need for moral guidance in such a time as this as obvious as The Caped Crusader wearing a black cape. For these reasons and many more, I remain grateful for my colleagues because I would not want to go this lonesome leadership path alone.

As rabbis, priests, pastors, and imams, we have each been called, set apart, and then trained and equipped within our various faith traditions to serve. Our collective education, experience, and wisdom when we are in the same room sometimes startles my mind! Clergy are also a little weird; I admit. I witness my weirdness in the mirror each morning. Women and men of sacred callings are both similar and different from other sorts of community leaders. Our leadership is the variety which invests and equips folk from our diverse folds so that they can serve our communities. We lean in deeply so that we can emotionally and spiritually invest in soul-shaping; an unseen, yet not insignificant charge.

Sometimes I think of clergy as the elbows of our communities bending, turning, and lifting congregations so that these faith-filled people can be and do generous acts within, and in spite of, the tumultuous world in which we live. Clergy are the faithful and steadfast “… fighting the good fight …” as the Apostle Paul once said.

You may wonder why the squad meets at high noon. Unsung heroes require solid sustenance. We need nourishment so that we might have the strength to plot and plan the demise of evil and violence, sin and shame, guilt and meaninglessness. Besides that, I learned long ago while in college as a novice leader that gatherings with food always increase attendance! And yes, to answer your unspoken question, our lunch meetings have resembled, at different critical moments, the end credit scene of "The Avengers" as the Marvel heroes dined at The Shawarma Palace after the Battle of New York. Weary and worn, my dear friends and I are often simply grateful to have survived another month of what the ills of this world inflicted upon our God-following flocks.

As a member of the Squad, I concede to you my own clumsiness which became a teachable moment for my faith practice. This is my confession from the God Squad table. You see, eating together as Jews, Christians and Muslims, is trickier than you might imagine. To sit at the same table and work out a menu which honors each of our faith practices is far from simple.

Even though we represent three world religions who all come from our common Father Abraham, our food rituals, laws, practices, and traditions vary widely. Kosher food laws for Jews, halal dietary food laws for Muslims, seasonal fasts from meat during Lent for Christians, and even gluten allergies present unique challenges when we feast. Our story of dining together is one of awkwardness and cooperation, confusion and clarity, and humility and hospitality.

I will not forget the first time I offered to host our squad luncheon. To my horror, that same evening I awoke in the middle of the night in a soggy sweat. Panic thumped in my chest as I was stumped to consider, ‘What could I serve my friends so that they will feel welcome?’ My grandmother’s Hoosier farm table had been, until that moment, the idyllic feast to imitate. In the dark of night, my mind pictured her long dining table filled with platters of meat from her cattle and hog herds, mountains of vegetables from her garden and homemade butter from her milk cows. I knew enough to know that my grandma’s table was not the proper feast for the God Squad! So what was?

The next morning, I set out on a new mission. Research became my go–to move, because this was not my grandma’s dinner party. I had to unlearn and relearn in order to practice the sacredness of welcoming the stranger to my table. I was no longer the teacher, but the student all over again. Becoming a student again placed my faith leadership under the directive of humility. And I was better for it.

You may wonder, was my first God Squad luncheon a success? Yes. Yes, it was. What I learned as we broke bread together is that while my table did not have my grandma’s cooking, the feast was prepared with similar intentional love and welcome. Isn’t that what hospitality is about? Loving intention and attention to details. On my grandmother’s dining room table were green beans and bacon, because those were my father’s favorite vegetable. Angel food cake ensured that my great uncle Wayne had a diabetic dessert. And of course, homemade strawberry jam and yeast rolls were parked by my chair because my Gram spoiled my sweet tooth. She knew us and therefore chose what we liked.

The mystical magic sparks when a diverse group of people gather around one table to feast. Laughter between strangers bubbles up. Good food loosens tongues to tell meaningful and sometimes silly tall tales. Sharing a table together fills more than the belly. Learning how to eat together deepened my sense of abundant hospitality. This is my story of quiet insurgency, which takes place on the second Wednesdays of the month.

I wonder with you if folks from diverse places and backgrounds ate together more often what our world would be like. If we took the time and intent to deeply understand religious diets and health conditions so that we know one another’s stories. And I wonder if that is the quiet rebellion than can take place within our world. One invitation to a table at a time. Who are you inviting to your table and how are you making them feel your welcome? May hospitality be the "new uprising" in our world.

Rev. Michelle L. Knight is senior pastor at Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster. She wrote this for The God Squad, a group of interfaith clergy in The Region who work together for the best of the larger community. The opinions are the writer's.

2
0
0
0
0

Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.