The seven of us had spent a lovely day in picturesque Door County, Wisconsin, honoring one of the women in our fellowship. Now the sun was setting over Sturgeon Bay and our time of reflecting, naming, and blessing was drawing to an end too. We made our way from the rocky beach to the nearby cottage for a late-night dinner.
One of the women gathered objects from the day’s activities—sunflowers, hosta leaves, pillar candles, votives, and rocks—and created a spontaneous centerpiece on the long farmhouse table while others pulled leftover charcuterie, kale salad, and various veggies from the fridge. Dinner, which had been roasting in the oven for 45 minutes, was surprisingly not done, so we—hungry and spent from a full day—decided to make do with what was on hand.
Plates were piled high with meats, cheeses, fruit, and fresh, colorful veggies, and glasses were filled with water or wine. Then we gathered around the table aglow with candlelight. Words from a liturgy we’d read the prior evening still hung in the air:
“The joy of fellowship, and the welcome and comfort of friends new and old, and the celebration of these blessings of food and drink and conversation and laughter are the true evidences of things eternal, and are the first fruits of that great glad joy that is to come and that will be unending.”*
The words of this blessing rang true as I took in the beauty, sweetness, and sacredness of the moment.
It felt like no small thing to have made my way, along with the others, to this little cottage on the water’s edge. Coming from six different states and traveling countless miles, we had each determined this gathering worthy of our time, energy, and investment. And in so gathering, we found ourselves experiencing “the joy of fellowship” and “the welcome and comfort of friends new and old”—things that I have been sorely missing during the past two pandemic years.
In one another’s company we swapped stories, shed many tears, enjoyed the surrounding beauty, shared laughter, and even engaged in an impromptu dance party. It felt like a respite from the real world, but perhaps it was, in fact, a turning to the real world…toward the eternal and the “great glad joy” to be enjoyed among the saints, both now and forevermore.
Such a taste of the divine through friendship and fellowship is indeed rare. It seems such moments require intentionality, rarely happening spontaneously; sacrifice, as we have so many things vying for our time; and self-awareness, knowing when solitude has shifted into isolation. We bring to the table our defiant joy, our irrational hope, and our whole hearts as we engage the others who have chosen to join us there.
When the candles were extinguished at the end of our meal, we left the table feeling sated, body and soul. Tomorrow we would leave the cottage, homeward bound. I felt ready to go–glad for the choice I’d made to come and renewed for my return home.
*From “A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends” by Douglas McKelvey
Susan Tucker is a lifelong lover of story, and with curiosity and openness, she often explores in her writing the tension that life holds. A former English teacher, Susan loves meaningful use of language, especially when used to stir the soul and whet one’s appetite for more truth, goodness, and beauty. Compelled by a burgeoning interest in trauma recovery, she pursued training at The Allender Center, completing the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care, Level I and Level 2. Susan and Tim, her husband of 28 years, are the parents of two sons, now young adults, and adjusting to their newly empty nest.nbsp