How food and hospitality build community

By Chris Neal

A tasty meal

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I believe that the stomach is the window to the heart. There’s a reason Jesus called Himself the bread of life. Food sustains us, gives us energy, and keeps us alive. When we share food together, we also share family, community, and love.

When I was asked to write about an aspect of student life at Oxford Community Church, I immediately responded with “food!” It’s understandable why this was such an automatic response. Aside from the fact that as a constantly hungry student sorely lacking in culinary skills, food (especially free food) is something very close to my heart (and stomach), it is also one of the most important aspects of OCC. We call ourselves Oxford Community Church, and eating together is key to building a community.

In Acts 2, Luke paints a picture of the early church. We are told that “every day they continued to meet in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people.” As students at OCC we try to follow this pattern. After meeting together at church on a Sunday (our equivalent of the temple courts), we eat together. Sometimes the meal takes place in the church building, but in general one of the families in the church will invite us all around to their house, where we eat together, play games, and share fellowship.

Being invited around to somebody’s house for food is something that, in my opinion, sets OCC apart. We believe that the Bible calls us to be hospitable, to shelter, feed and take care of people. It’s great to be able to escape out of the student bubble and be with a “normal” family, in a house with food in the fridge and pictures on the wall, which strongly contrasts to the bleak wasteland that student kitchens so often become. Eating together as church family builds relationship, a close community of people who love God and love each other - and we also love the food.

Chris grew up in Oxfordshire, and is currently going into his second year of Fine Art at St. Anne's College.
Chris Neal