Will the virus kill Dinner on the Grounds?

May 22, 2020

19  comments

Dinner on the Grounds -leslieannetarabella.com

If there will ever be a time in history when good Christians whisper a minor league curse word, it will be when they are told that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll never again be allowed to have another Dinner on the Grounds. 

We’ve been rocked by death and sickness until our knees are sore from prayer. We’ve cried through the night begging for mercy, and now this? Our favorite meal of the entire year? Deviled eggs? Cream-of-something soup casseroles? And no, no! Not the pear salad with a dollop of Duke’s and a cherry on the top! Tell us it can’t be true. 

Dinner on the Grounds -leslieannetarabella.com

The threat of missing college football is plague enough, and not being able to share a hymnal with our friend from the 3rd grade is harsh. We even feel punished since funerals have been cancelled because there’s nothing that makes us feel better when our friend is gone than to sit and bawl our eyes out until the stranger next to us  hands us their hankie — oh wait, we can’t do that now either.   

What’s the point of even going to church if eventually there isn’t the reward of the best meal of the year?  Piggly Wiggly stocks extra canned soup and bags of sugar just in case the trifecta hits that year when the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodist dinners collide and take place on the same day, which only seems to happen when the full moon after Pentecost resembles a Chick-fil-A nugget.  

Dinner on the Grounds -les
lieannetarabella.com

Dinner on the Grounds isn’t really dinner and it isn’t really on the ground. But of course, you already knew that. If not, allow us to welcome you the South. 

Held after Sunday services and much more than an average buffet, this meal is an opportunity to bring your best before the Lord.  Long tables in the fellowship hall are loaded to the point of swaying, or in the country, decades-old cement tables beneath the oak trees are covered with pretty tablecloths and piled high with Southern delicacies. Side by side, hearts and stomachs are fed while men, women, children and teenagers share a meal and make new memories. 

“I’ll feed you and you feed me” is what it’s all about. “You’ve loved my children, helped me move to a new house and prayed for my wayward niece, and I’ve thrown showers for your daughter’s weddings . . . (all three).”  We share each other’s lives, so it’s natural to share food. 

Dinner on the Grounds -leslieannetarabella.com

Yet sharing anything at all is now forbidden. Handshakes, hugs and even awkward fist bumps  are frowned upon, but don’t you think that sharing a slice of strawberry cake should have some type of heavenly exemption? “These vittles inspected and approved by The Almighty” should be the small print on the bottom of every Pyrex dish dropped off in the Fellowship Hall. Sharing is what we love to do and without it, we’ll surely wither and fade. 

Dinner on the Grounds -leslieannetarabella.com

Ten years from now, will a robot hand us a plate of germ-free fried chicken while the virtual choir sings in the background?

The common experience of sharing food, worship, music, heartaches, prayer, tears and joyful laughter is just about the best thing in the world. Will we experience a modern-day miracle, or did the COVID-19 even kill Dinner on the Grounds? Keep praying, everyone. 

This story first appeared in the AL.com newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.

Click to see my Dinner on the Grounds recipes and photo collection on Pinterest

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  1. Mike and I were just talking about all of the events we took for granted and wondered if we will have them back one day. ?

      1. I pray in Jesus’ Mighty Name that He will once again bless us with a mighty miracle, and allow this current “season” to pass. He is Truly the one who can do it; He without a doubt is able to do it. For He speaks and everything Must line up according to His words. I believe that relationships and physical contact will be restored to us as well, without the need of having to physically distance ourselves. In His Word, we see that the Lord is very much into close relationships; so I feel that since He enjoys the closeness of relationships… we will once again be blessed with the same. As He walked on this Earth, He spent a great deal of time with others. During that time that He spent with others, it was always… up close and personal. His death and resurrection even demonstrates how He cherishes up close and personal relationships. Although this current “season” has been difficult; the Lord is still so faithful, good, and merciful. When He brings us out of this “season,” I pray that we will remember to be grateful, thankful, helpful, and acknowledge Him above all else; and that it will not take another difficult “season” to get our attention again. So, I am thankful that He will restore and bless us to once again come together and enjoy loving embraces from dear friends, lay a comforting hand on a shoulder in need, sit right next to each other on church pews, and enjoy a wonderful fellowship meal together without so much as a second thought (but maybe enjoying a second “helping”). ? I believe that to be true because the One that I believe in is faithful, and He is “big” on close relationships. I thank God in Jesus’ Mighty Name that we are one day closer to this “season” being behind us. To God be the glory forever and always!

        “…if my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from Heaven; forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
        2 Chronicles 7:14
        In Christ,
        Paula

  2. It will be interesting to see how much really changes or if gradually things trickle back to normal.
    I am involved in a shower in June. It was postponed from April to now just a week before the wedding. We are bouncing around an idea of boxed food and prepared drinks. I am all over the place on my thoughts on any given day, so that it is why I think it will take a while to sort it all out.
    I would have said the idea of dinner in the fellowship halls out in the country would remain, but I know even my 80 year old aunt who practically runs her church way out in Range was frightened to go. Of course, she was coming off a mystery illness back in January that no doctor could explain. She was down for a month at least and in retrospect sounds a lot like the Big C.

    1. I hope your Aunt can be tested to see if she had the virus back in January. That would be great if she’s already survived it, and would make her feel a little more comfortable about going out in public now. As for the shared meals and refreshments at showers, church, parties . . . it will be interesting. We had a small group from church over to our backyard and we sat around a big table – far away from each other and I served individually wrapped Subway sandwiches and a basket of individual cookies, chips, snack bars — there was a free for all for the Cracker Jacks! Not my finest hostessing, but it got the job done. Good luck with the shower.

  3. I pray your 10 year scenario does not happen.

    Your writing is so very entertaining, enjoyed it so much! It brought back so many wonderful memories. But the reality of it is as scary as a virtual altar call—doable but far from perfect.

    1. Good example for the altar call. I truly think with a miracle vaccine we’ll be back to normal someday soon. And we were already washing hands and being careful with the potato salad and other high-spoil items, weren’t we? Mrs. Frazier, the queen of the church kitchen told us to keep the Deviled Eggs on ice until they finished the last note of the Doxology, then . . . run and put them on the table.Thanks Dewena.

  4. Yes, the things we took for granted…hopefully we will all be so much more appreciative now…I recently had a happy hour with a couple who are very close friends, we social distanced on my patio, they brought their own cocktails, and they were so excited to be going somewhere that was not Publix! My friend dressed up like she was going to a wedding! What would have normally been just a simple drink with friends became something we will all remember…I love seeing the creative ways people are coping, I have great faith that we will figure it out!

    1. I think I’d love your friend! Value each day and each moment, because we don’t know what the future holds. How many times have we thought that? And yet, here’s another example we never thought we’d experience. Cheers to many more valuable visits with friends and future shared meals to come!

  5. It will be interesting indeed come this October, when my wife’s mother’s family has their reunion, of which the main gathering is at a country church near the old home place–because all the families spread their dishes on the outside tables. I hope this virus thing doesn’t mess it up!

    1. I agree because our family reunion is in July and it sounds the same as your wife’s family. Old church, long tables, lots of food shared. The family has met for 79 years now without missing a single year. Here’s hoping for big pots of chicken and dumplings in our future!

  6. Oh this post brings back such happy memories of church dinners! Well, and not quite as happy memories of church funerals. My mother’s go to dish was pea salad. Everyone loved it! Go figure-lol. Yesterday my husband and I went for a drive and stopped for nachos and a margarita at one of our favorite restaurants in New Braunfels, Texas. We ate on the patio and it was so fun having a bit of normalcy again. I will treasure the memory of yesterday forever!

    1. Pea salad actually sounds good because I love peas! Eating nachos in Texas right now sounds so exotic to me! I love my home, but can’t wait to get out and travel again someday. Stay safe and healthy!

  7. My mother’s family has their reunion in sight, in late June, but they don’t do it at one site year after year. this time is near Stone Mountain. I hope that goes go down. These reunions will not be the same anymore, in that I am now the only one left from our family because both my parents and my sister have passed on.

    1. I see what you mean now about the comments not lining up. I know this is in response to the above conversation. – I think you have to click on my response to you where it says, “reply.” – Once we get it all figured out, I”m thinking about changing my blog format, so you’ll end up choking me! Anyway, I love the idea of moving the reunion around. We stay at the same country church with the same cemetery and it seems the same people are always buried there and someone always repeats my Granddad’s same lame joke, “People are just dying to get in here!” Glad you still have a large family to love you!

  8. Omg, we were without internet for TEN days due to a lightning strike, and I’ve missed your stories! Thank you AT&T for finally sending in the troops. What did I do to entertain myself, you might ask. Well, Mrs. Tarabella, I re-read The Majorettes Are Back in Town! It gets funnier and more true with every reading! And what was my favorite story, you might ask. It was definitely about dinner on the grounds (The Greatest Love of All) which needs to be required reading for all ministers! The alphabet idea fizzled completely at one dinner when none of the dessert people showed up. Incredible coincidence that I get internet and see you did a follow up. The Cracker Barrel and bridal gown stories were my next favorites. And Pearls before Wine! Well, okay, they were ALL my favorites!

    1. You are a dear, and I’m sure being without internet was difficult, but you are so sweet to reread my book! I’m working on a second book now, and it’s slow going, so it encourages me to hear how much you liked the first book. It’s a needed boost! Thanks for the cheer, and I’m glad you’re back online!

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