08 March 2007

What could we learn from feeding 10,000 people?

Via BoingBoing, one of my favorite blogs, I read about "Sarah Rich of Worldchanging who is in Delhi at the Doors of Perception conference, checking out local food systems. She's posted a write-up of a Sikh institution, a Langar, which feeds 10,000 people a day on donated food and volunteer labor."

She writes: As Debra Solomon told us when introducing the excursion the previous evening: "They do the most exquisite dishwashing ritual you'll ever see." But actually, the Sikh guide who escorted us through the temple grounds told us in no uncertain terms that the kitchen activities are absolutely without ritual. "Cooking food is cooking food," he said, "No ritual. Just cooking." But if it can't be called a ritual, it can surely be called a dance -- a rhythmic, continuous choreography with mounds of dough, cauldrons of lentils, dozens of hands, and an endless stream of hungry visitors.

Every Sikh temple throughout the world has a Langar (Punjabi for "free kitchen"). This is not a soup kitchen. It's not exclusively for the poor, nor exclusively for the Sikh community. Volunteering in the cooking, serving and cleaning process is a form of active spiritual practice for devotees, but the service they provide asks no religious affiliation of its recipients. Our guide's chorus was, "Man, woman, color, caste, community," meaning you will be fed here regardless of how you fit into any of those classifications.

This spirit of inclusion and equality is reinforced by the kitchen's adherence to vegetarianism, not because Sikhs are vegetarian, but because others who visit may be, and by serving no meat, they exclude nobody.

You can read more here. Are there lessons for us in this? I think so. Talk amongst yourselves...


Simon said...

It makes me want to cry, not that Sikhs are doing this (!), but that it just feels so far away from what Christians/Anglicans/Episcopalians would be thinking of doing. In my own place, we give and support, but I can't imagine mobilising a parish to do something similar. There would be too many good reasons not to. Forgetting all that Jesus and love stuff.

Huw Raphael said...

Thanks for sharing this! (Blogged it) It reminds me of the food pantry ministry at my former parish: although the Sikhs seem to have it down to a science!

Oddly enough at the last Judgement we're asked about feeding the hungry rather than theological or sexual quibbles. It's something most of us Christians (no matter who we are) seem to forget.

Scott Gunn said...

As you've both said, it sort of seems that the Christians have been out-Christianed by others.

It's stunningly ironic that Jesus says not a word about homosexuality and has many things to say about poverty and hunger. Yet, we rarely find ourselves talking about the most important things, let alone doing something about them. Sigh.