No Silverware in Malcolm’s Kitchen: the Early Days
They only agreed to meet one time. Seven or eight young adults in their twenties, curious about the conversation I promised, curious to see whether I could cook, curious to know each other. They said yeah, they’d come over to Malcolm’s house on Thursday night.
I wish I could remember exactly who was there. Malcolm, of course, the quietly hilarious engineering student at UTA who asked the guy he rented a room from if we could use the living room for a couple hours. And Kaytee B, the part-time secretary at the traditional church I was serving, with whose innate kindness and generosity I had fallen in love. And a handful of others who were not exactly lost, not exactly found, but kind of in between, wondering what kind of earth they were inheriting, wondering whether God was still paying attention.
I also don’t remember what I cooked for that night in July 2012. The story I tell is “a pot of chili,” but it could have been any of the four or five entrees I started making on a regular basis for Thursday gatherings. It had to be something I could pack in the back of my station wagon, along with the plates and napkins, cups and drinks, serving utensils and silverware. There were no forks in Malcolm’s kitchen, at least not enough for a gathering of any size, so we carried it in and carried it out, every week for what seemed like a long time. A good, very good, long time.
Every week we ate, and drank, and got to know each other a little. I would posit a question for consideration. “What is the state of your physical health? How about your spiritual health? How are those related, or not, for you?” “Are you an ethical monotheist? How do you know?” “Do you find it easier to connect with God when you’re alone, or with people? Why do you think so?” “What does ‘church’ mean to you? What do you like most about that idea? Least?”
The answers were unlike anything I could have predicted. The people sitting around Malcolm’s living room, on sofas or the floor or the giant beanbag called – I kid you not – a “Lovesac,” were disarmingly honest. One night we were talking about contemporary idolatries and I passed around Play-Doh so we could shape our own idols for smashing later. A couple of people formed their credit scores, their credit card woes, their student loans, their vocational anxiety, their relationship blunders. Oh, the honesty! It took my breath away.
After a couple of months someone suggested that we could, if we felt like it, read the Bible together… after all, if this was “church” we probably should crack open the Good Book. I was startled – I had been thinking of Galileo as a side project, a diversion from my church work. But soon after a young woman in the group took a call from her dad during supper and told him, “I can’t talk now; I’m at church.” And it hit me that what we were doing was not a side project, not a diversion, for the people who had come together in Malcolm’s living room. For many of them, it was the singular communal expression of faith of their adult lives. Galileo was their church. And it was going to take more than silverware and chili to keep it going.