Movie nights and book chats. The millions of people eager for every volume of Harry Potter demonstrate society’s hunger for shared culture. People want to experience something that they know others are experiencing as well, and this can become the ground of rich, shared conversation. Movie nights and book chats provide the opportunities for this kind of shared cultural conversation to take place about media offerings that are less universal. Powerful story-telling, well-shaped characters and evocative imagery in good books and film are  potentially transformative, but we need to learn how to slow down our appreciation of these gifts and increase the rich dialogue they can generate.

Slow food. I am currently in the best small group I have ever been in. After decades of small groups (some great, some less so), my wife and I were nearly burned out from the leadership responsibilities that were so often expected. Taking time to imagine what we would be excited to do, we decided on an evening with a cluster of friends surrounding a table of carefully prepared food. And so, after slowly relaxing amid the food, wine, and fellowship around the table, we let our conversation drift towards a stimulating or challenging book of spiritual interest that we have agreed to read.

Community fasting and feasting. Encourage a group of people, perhaps an organization of some kind, to combine a fast and a feast. The feast can come before or after a fast (like the traditional pancake supper before lent or Easter dinner after) or they can be integrated (like the Muslim iftar suppers during Ramadan, beginning at sunset after a day of fasting).   Find a way to make the fast filled with shared meaning. When the feast focuses on quality homemade or locally prepared food rather than something too uniquely ‘gourmet’ or something overly processed, it can satisfy all palates and not alienate those with simpler tastes.

Honouring people and their stories. Most of us are hungry for affirmation. Long term, consistent service is so often taken for granted. Beautiful moments of loving sacrifice are witnessed only by one or two. When we find ways to honour people and share their stories (or invite them to tell their stories), we do two beautiful things: we encourage those who may well need  encouragement, and we inspire others as to what is possible. I think we often hesitate to honour people in our local communities because we have concerns that people may start doing things for the sake of attention, or that we’ll hurt those we inevitably leave out. I suspect with some thoughtful creativity we could manage these risks.

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