Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Ring the Dinner Bell!

Anne Ridenour

A 30-minute time out with the Travel Channel and a cup of hot tea took me on a journey through many of the country’s best stops for barbecue ribs. There is a special place in Huntsville, Texas known as the Church of the Holy Smokes. The Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville has achieved a place of honor on the list of best places to stop for ribs. In fact, some say it is the best place to stop for barbecue ribs in all of Texas. One could easily drive right past and miss it. Not to worry. It has become a place of destination. 

Over 30 years ago, the story goes, a fairly typical churchyard scene involving a parishioner barbecuing dinner for her husband and her pastor, while they were busy painting the church, served as the humble beginnings of the Church of the Holy Smokes. People driving past stopped to inquire about the barbecue and offered to pay for a meal. A few short weeks later the parishioners of this little known Baptist Church were preparing ribs for the multitudes.

Travelers from far and wide make the pilgrimage to enjoy the all you can eat $12 meal prepared on Wednesday through Saturday each week. The Church and the small, unassuming building sitting next to it don’t proclaim its chosen status among eateries. That is why it strikes one as so very special. A small church in a small town doing God’s mission in the world, sharing God’s immense love one plate of delicious ribs at a time. When we do ordinary things with great love they do become extraordinary. 
Many of our parishes have great traditions of cooking and serving regional foods at annual dinners and festivals. When we think of church dinners we think of foods that warm the heart and soul and nourish our spirits. Some of the ways of preparing these traditional foods are slipping away as generations come and go, but we continue to gather at the parish kitchen ready to create the next meal. Parish dinners are part of “our story.” 

With my tea cup empty and images of mouth watering ribs circling in my head, I wondered how the VIP status of the best barbecue places might resonate with what we do when we prepare for our Strawberry Festival or the Annual Oyster Dinner. What is the magic that makes people travel many miles to enjoy a plate of ribs? I believe we are drawn to places that welcome us and celebrate community, we are nourished by good food that has been prepared with care and we like to feel connected to a place, even when we visit for the first time. When we are invited to be part of the story, we are validated and we join the celebration. 

As 2013 takes off, we toast the pancake flippers, the oyster patters, the crab cake makers, the fish fryers and the strawberry pickers. Let us put out our shingles and ring the dinner bell!

Anne Ridenour is a member of Christ Church, Chaptico. What is the magic that makes people travel miles to enjoy a plate of ribs? What can we do to make our parishes a destination? Share your reactions and comments on Facebook.