Last weekend was my church's annual Candy Making event for our upcoming Harvest Festival. We gathered in the afternoon in the home of one of our lay folks, and spent the better part of the day making delicious hard candy to sell at the Harvest Festival. This was my second time, and it was heaps of fun. We made a myriad of different flavors, ranging from blueberry cheesecake to peppermint to licorice. About 26 of us came to participate and all ages were represented, from the young kids to those who are still kids at heart. We broke in the evening for a "light" supper (where we all definitely ate our fill...probably so we wouldn't eat the candy), and ended making candy around 8:30 in the evening. It was a true time of fellowship and conversation and work...and enjoying the muted Patriot's game in the background where they trounced the Dallas Cowboys. Good food, good fellowship, and good fun.
Something transformational happens when you get a group of church people out of the church setting. Everyone is more relaxed, has time to engage in deeper conversations with one another - it's like coffee hour squared. Seeing people outside of church somehow puts them in a more natural light. I think from time to time we don't bring our whole selves to church, both the good and the bad, and being together in a different setting helps flesh people out. They become more real, more than just the reflection seen on Sunday morning. Authentic sharing happens because there is more time to talk and be with one another than the quick 5-minute life update during coffee hour or the raising of an answered prayer during joys and concerns. Relationships can truly deepen during these times apart from church because there is the time and the space for fellowship.
I believe I experienced authentic fellowship during our candy making event. And it was truly sweet - and not just because of the candy. ;-) We were all happy to be together, happy to burn our fingers a bit, and happy to help out our church as we made candy to sell at the Harvest Festival. I hope that wherever I end up serving, there will be moments like this in the life of the congregation where true community and fellowship can be experienced.