Hub cap salad, also known as jello mold salad, was a centerpiece at the annual church picnic. Those round green shaky jello salads with shreds of carrots on the inside and mini marshmallows on the top. Do you cut it like a cake or spoon it like a pudding? Mom had a piece of Tupperware, specifically made to carry deviled eggs, which was proudly mustered out for this annual congregation event. Massive pounds of hotdogs and burgers were waiting for the grill. No one had heard of kale or thought salmon was a cook-out food group.
To work off the great food there was the marathon softball game when everyone had a chance to play, especially the dads who didn’t walk upright for weeks after the picnic. Even if you didn’t play, you cheered everyone on. It didn’t matter how you had voted a week ago about getting the new hymnal. Everyone cheered, especially when they saw the pastor could swing a bat almost as well as he could preach. God loves each of us the same, but does not bless everyone with the same softball skills.
We worshipped together every Sunday and attended a variety of monthly meetings. But it was this once a year expression of community that was the subject of stories all year long. “Do you remember Sal’s home plate slide? Wasn’t Marian’s potato salad better than ever? It was so great to see so many of the new members having a good time. When is the picnic next year?”
Sunday worship brought us into community with God. Monthly meetings, not so much. A reading of the minutes and Roberts Rules gymnastics just didn’t do it. Remembering our time as a community enjoying one another was fun to talk about. Valuing each other as children of God was far more important than a pressing issue that wasn’t all that pressing.
In the post church picnic glow we greeted each other on Sundays differently somehow. We had been together in our humanity sharing softball scrapes and treasured family recipes. God was in our midst in a real way. When there was the unavoidable difference of opinion from time to time, the picnic was a reminder of our humanity and community. It was our common faith, not the hub cap salad that brought us together. The love of God and our common mission kept us together.
The church picnic was one big passing of the peace in the community that lasted all year. Church picnics, or whatever those times as a congregation may be called these days, can still be all that. Pass the peace (and hold the hub cap salad).