by Kate Conmy and Katie Jones
Build justice-seeking Catholic community around your dinner table!
For the past 10 months, some progressive Catholics in the Washington, DC area have been gathering for monthly potluck dinners. The event is called Guerrilla Communion (here here to Kate for the jazzy name!), and its purpose is simple: to gather progressive Catholics around a table just to be together. Typically, we’ll have 20 people or so show up with some chili, or hummus, or a six-pack or two. We eat, share stories, get to know each other, and go home. We bring with us ties to a host of church justice organizations – Call To Action, Women’s Ordination Conference, New Ways Ministry, Catholics United, DignityUSA, Catholics for Choice, NETWORK, Pax Christi, the volunteer corps, various parishes – but ultimately come just as ourselves. There is a special kind of cross-pollination that happens over a plate of rice and beans that can be downright transformational.
One of our favorite young National Catholic Reporter columnists, Jamie Manson, just published this report about Guerrilla Communion — and it’s generating some buzz and interest from roamin’ Catholics in other cities. Inquiring minds want to know: how did you do it – and how can I do it too? Well, to be sure there’s no formula, and we are learning as we go here. But we are happy to share some of our learnings with you. If you have other ideas, leave a comment!
1. Connect with other church justice people before you start. Reach out to local chapters of Call To Action and DignityUSA; ask Catholics United, Women’s Ordination Conference, or New Ways Ministry if they have local leaders near you who might be interested. You’ll want to build a list of potential invitees, and you’ll especially want to find a co-planner or two!
2. Vision and plan with others, preferably with a couple of people who represent different subsections of the Catholic justice community. Here in DC, this is really only sustainable work on a monthly basis because we have multiple people who can share the load. Communicate your expectations, then make room for the Holy Spirit.
3. Promote your event as widely as you can, using your team of planners to reach out to their different networks and bring their people. Former Catholics, catholic groupies, that friend from that undergrad religion class you took that time: definitely welcome. Try to make the event as accessible and inclusive as you can.
4. Offer one and see how it goes. When a critical mass (har har) has shown up, circle up and do informal introductions [Jamie’s article exposes our most recent silly one], create space for announcements, and then let the connecting begin. Don’t forget to collect email addresses so you can keep in touch with each other. In DC, we started a Google Group listserv – which has been an easy way to keep in touch.
5. Get feedback – and repeat! Try to get different people to host each month, to build a sense of mutual investment in the community. Consistency, or at least a sense of longevity allows people to plan ahead and come to the next one. See what feeds your community; find out where the good energy is and follow it!
Guerrilla Communion potlucks are coming up in DC and New York City. Let us know if you make one happen near you; we’d love to highlight it here on the blog and promote it among our networks. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Conmy is the Assistant Director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. Katie Jones is the 20/30 Coordinator for Call To Action.