UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

‘Feast for the Common Good’

Subversive gatherings are good for the body, mind and soul

By Carolyn Pogue

If ever there was a time for soul work, subversive gatherings and renewed focus on the common good, it’s now. That's why I had looked forward to this past weekend’s Feast for the Common Good in Calgary — the third such feast in all of Canada.

Working for the common good is counterculture to so much of what is being hurled at us in the news, on our streets and — significantly — in our kitchens. That underpins the work of author and ethicist Rev. Ted Reeve, of Orillia, Ont.’s St. Paul's United Church Centre, and his colleague, Rev. Bill Phipps — my husband. Their work together throughout Bill's time as moderator of The United Church (1997 - 2000) began with the national Moderator's Consultation on Faith and the Economy. Over the years, their work has taken twists and turns but remains focussed on what is best for the planet and her beings.

The Feast began Friday night with a beautiful vegetarian meal, during which our hosts, Bill and Reeve, fed us conversational appetizers, encouraging leisurely conversation about issues that we sometimes find difficult to talk about: right relations, economic disparity, climate change — and how they interconnect.

The Feast attracted people from across generations. And conversations were rich and stimulating, just like the food, which was slow-cooked by EthniCity, an organization that welcomes newcomers to Canada and offers training in the food arts. Many of the groceries were supplied by our local health food store, Sunnyside Market. This was different from many church suppers in that most diners were not members of the church, so networking with the community was a decided bonus. The food focus helped us to think about the source, transport and preparation. As for me, I dined with seven others — two of whom were casual friends who didn’t attend Hillhurst United Church, where the meal was served.

(Left to right) Former United Church Moderator Rev. Bill Phipps, and author and ethicist Rev. Ted Reeve. Photo by Carolyn Pogue
(Left to right) Former United Church Moderator Rev. Bill Phipps, and author and ethicist Rev. Ted Reeve. Photo by Carolyn Pogue

Frankly, I had a hard time imagining how the conversation would flow, but it did. After each course, we were offered encouraging questions. Flowers, candles and beauty replaced the flip charts, flow charts and to-do lists often used for this kind of soul work.

By the end of the evening, we had laid the internal groundwork for the Saturday workshop facilitated by the co-founders of Refugia Retreats (I loved learning that refugia is a scientific term referring to places that become safe spaces for organisms and life to endure in the midst of upheaval.). Co-founders Amy Spark and Jodi Lammiman led us through exercises and discussion founded on Joanna Macy's Work that Reconnects. Macy, a Buddhist scholar, eco-feminist and author, passionately helps us to connect our compassion to action in order to help heal Earth and one another.

Again, we were fed body and soul on Saturday, with the caterers offering wonderful dishes that will potentially turn some of us into vegans. (My favourite was vegan pad thai.) It was all part of walking the talk in order to keep our bodies in good shape and walk more gently on Earth.

"There is a lot of anger and frustration in the world just now; the weekend offered an antidote," Bill said. As for Reeve, he’s now thinking about subversive acts that we can all do during Lent: looking carefully at what we’re  consuming. The conversation reminded me that everything is political, including what we put in our refrigerators.

All in all, the few hours spent with others who share concern, passion and vision felt like the best way to spend a winter weekend. If you also enjoy subversion like this, I hope you’ll find or organize a Feast of your own.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a Calgary author and longtime Observer contributor. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image


July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.


July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.


July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image