HOST: Chips in the Park
16th November 2016

Reflections from Rev Alison Wilkinson, Methodist Minister in Charge of HB.

I’m often asked, what does a Methodist minister do?

A few weeks ago the answer would be, I sat in a park in Shieldfield, sharing a bag of chips, talking with people. This isn’t my usual lunchtime stop, it was The Holy Biscuit’s launch of their autumn project Host. There was an eclectic mix of people eating chips together. The Holy Biscuit, had partnered with the Sheildfield community cafe to gather staff and members of groups that meet at the Holy Biscuit, with members of the community who had no connection with the Holy Biscuit. We talked we ate and we enacted Host. The Holy Biscuit staff arranged and facilitated this, hosting folk in the park, and then received the hospitality of the community cafe, as we drank tea, and talked more about being welcomed,  and what hospitality meant to us, beautifully living out what Host is all about.


I found myself at a table in the cafe learning from three Muslim woman about Eid, meals of welcome, where the preparation, and clearing up was as much part of the community feel, as the actual sitting to eat together. We talked about what eating alone means, where one person spoke movingly about where the simple function of taking in the necessary calories to support your body’s function, becomes a chore, which highlights your isolation and aloneness. This was the complete opposite of the community meal the Muslim women has described. I spoke about what communion means to me, the place where all are welcomed, where isolation is banished, and we gather to be hosted by the Lord Jesus.


We listened to each other, we learnt together, we laughed and over mugs of tea, and rapidly cooling chips, we truly met together.  It was more than just about physical proximity and shared food. It was a Martin Buber I- thou encounter. It was spiritual and made me wonder if that’s why Jesus spent so much time eating with people.

So what does a Methodist Minister do ? This one is going to spend more time eating chips, and sharing mugs of tea, listening, talking and laughing with people.

STARTER: Chips in the Park was the soft launch event of our HOST programme in Shieldfield Playpark and Shieldfield Forum Community Cafe.  It was a chance for folks to meet the co-producers of the project and share some chips (provided by Wretham Plaice Chippy). We discussed perceptions, experiences and challenges  of hospitality as we began our journey together. 

HOST is an experimental art programme of shared meals, discussion and communal activities designed to test out notions of hospitality. The aim is to open up shared spaces where we can think critically and creatively together about the role that hospitality might play in communal life. Co-produced and activated by the community at The Holy Biscuit, the project arises from a desire to better understand the gallery’s relationship to the people that use it as well as to reflect on wider social and political issues of the present moment.

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