Feeding community10 Feb 2024
Never underestimate the power of cake and sandwiches to bring people together.
The introduction to the story of Abigail in the Bible is an interesting one. In 1 Samuel 25 we learn that Nabal, her frankly quite stupid husband, mocks David, as in soon-to-be-king David, and doesn’t give him refuge when requested.
David tells his men to take up arms and prepare to assault Nabal. The servants heard and told Abigail that her husband had insulted David, and she realises what this means for her and her community.
So, what does she do? She hurriedly prepares a smorgasbord; drinks and lots of cake. Hundreds of cakes.
She gets the servants to help, loads up the donkeys and heads on over to David to make peace. And she successfully persuades him to keep from bloodshed. Never underestimate the power of cake and sandwiches.
I would argue that cake and sandwiches are the backbone of the Church. And by extension, ecological mission and ministry is built on cake and sandwiches too.
I was recently staying with my good friend Anne in northern Sydney. Anne runs a landcare group at her parish. They are regenerating a small creek area that feeds into the Hawkesbury River. The parish grounds are stunning and need regular weeding and love to be maintained. As an avid bushcarer myself, she invited me one Saturday morning to join the team weeding.
After a couple of hours, I was covered in mud from pulling weeds out of the creek, so I stopped for a break to help Anne prepare sandwiches for our lunch. She taught me to spread mayonnaise over the wholemeal bread, then mix salmon and chopped gherkins and smooth it over the top of the mayo. Divine.
I also cut up some date loaf to go with it. And we sat around the picnic bench having a well-deserved break.
While preparing the sandwiches Anne said to me ‘this is the most important part. The food is what keeps people coming back to help out. And as we talk while we eat, we build relationships and community. Caring for the creek is important too, but we can’t care for the creek without sandwiches.’
Our churches are built on community. And food is an essential ingredient for community. Caring for creation, I believe is an essential part of the Church’s mission moving forward. And we can’t do that without building a community of volunteers willing to come together. Coming together is easier with cake.
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of going to the Blue Mountains for an immersion program. We visited Garguree in Katoomba, which used to be an old racetrack. With the wisdom of the elders, the racetrack has slowly been regenerated back to bushland. When visiting we heard from a man called David – yes, pure coincidence. He organises the bush regeneration team. He shared with us about how he managed to build a community of volunteers. In the early days, he sat with the elders asking them what they
wanted done with the place to return it back to its original form. He asked which plants they wanted put in – they responded, ‘we want community.’ He kept pressing – ‘what weeds do you want removed?’ They responded, ‘and cake, we need cake . . . and tea.’
‘They were right’ he told us. Regenerating the bushland came later, building the community with cake was how it started. Clearly, people named David always need someone to bring them cake, or at least the idea of cake to make great things happen.
Every year, close to 3000 schools and parishes here in Australia fundraise during Lent for Project Compassion. This money goes to well-needed aid and development programs overseas.
In every one of the schools, there are a team of teachers, that sit down in the first few weeks of term one and they plan how they are going to get the kids, and their parents, to give up some of their cash for the poor. The solutions? Sausage sizzles, bake sales, pancakes, lob-a-chocs. Thrown in with the occasional dress up day, silly sock day, trivia night or raffle.
Thousands of hours of teachers, students and parents baking, shopping, preparing, setting up gazebos, standing outside the tuckshop, collecting money in boxes to send to the poor. They then go back into the classroom and learn about where that money is going with their Religious Education teacher.
The Catholic community’s aid and development programs overseas are only possible because of the 3000+ schools and parishes in Australia and the sausage sizzles that they run.
Cake and sandwiches can help to make peace in the world, can help bring community together to care for the earth and help raise much needed funds for the poor and vulnerable. What else can cake and sandwiches do?
This article first appeared in the autumn 2024 edition of Madonna magazine.