backyard meal

What is it like to live in Sophia Community, on a day-to-day basis? What is the rhythm and flavor of our life together?

On Sundays and Wednesday evenings, we eat together. We take it in turns to cook these community meals, with the cook determining the menu. We begin the meal with prayer, led by the cook; we join hands, pause and express thanks. Sometimes this is silent, but often the cook will speak words of gratitude or blessing. If we have guests, we may do a round of introductions after everyone has loaded their plates with food.

kids playing in backyard
Kids playing in the backyard

Sunday nights are our “open” meals, when we invite friends, house guests and others to join us. That means there may be as many as 18 people at the table, but usually it’s closer to 10. Depending upon the mood and the conversational qualities of guests, conversation may extend the meal for an hour or even two. Sundays are a good night for birthday celebrations, as community members often invite friends and family. This Sunday we have some former community members visiting from North Carolina, so we will be catching up with their lives over the meal. They have young kids, who will likely leave the table early to play in the Meeting Room with the other kids who reside in the house. In the hot weather, we eat in the backyard, so the kids can just play on the swings or lawn but still be in sight.

Our mid-week community meal (currently Wednesdays) is for community only, so this is a smaller gathering. We always schedule some activity after the meal. Twice a month, that is a community meeting, where we discuss business, schedule our month, and plan. On the other Wednesdays we may do a check-in (what is happening in your life?) or a deepening (getting to know one another better). Usually the kids don’t join in the meetings, but may go off and play together, or even wash the dishes while the adults talk.

All the adults work outside the house, so we only see each other in the evenings and on weekends. The kitchen is generally the place to hang-out if you are looking for company. The kitchen has an offset space with a sofa and chairs we call the Salon, where the kids can play while parents cook, and we keep our newspapers on the kitchen table, which attracts people to sit and read. On the evenings we don’t have community meals, people eat at times that suit them. The families tend to eat early, and single members later. When we have had multiple families in the house, sometimes that have arranged to share family cooking, each taking one evening to cook for all the families; other times, the families work out staggered times to cook so we aren’t all crowded around the stove at once.

Unscheduled things happen too. Earlier this week, we had another former community member and their wife visiting for a night. Lisa cooked for them, and invited any other community members who were home to join in the meal. Ben joined us after he came in from work, and we had a conversation about the state of the nation, and what we were doing in response. They talked about their life in Asheville, and what Beagle missed from Chicago days.

Sometimes during the summer we may swap the community meal for a community activity such as SummerDance downtown, or Salsa in the Parks.

group eating in backyard
Soyun, Lisa, Beagle in the backyard

On weekends, we tend to bump into one another more casually. People sleep in, and more of us may find ourselves in the kitchen eating breakfast around the same time. Weekends are often a time for people to do their cleaning chores, and the time we schedule periodic “sweat equity” days when we work together on deep cleaning, furniture moving, painting, etc. During the summer, neighbors will drop by to pick up their boxes of vegetables that Angelic Organics farm drops off at our house, which is a collection site for the south side. Don mows the lawns and does yardwork; Lisa plants flowers and eats breakfast outside; Ben transfers the recycling from the inside bins to the city collection bin in the alley. Joe heads out on his bike, and Julia and Sophia have dance classes on Saturday.

The Quakers have their Meeting for Worship on Sunday morning, so we have to keep quiet and out of their way. Often, community kids join in the Quaker religious education groups during Meeting for Worship, and certainly join the Quaker kids in after-meeting play in the backyard. Some of us may join the Quakers in their Meeting, or at fellowship afterwards. Don’s spiritual group meets upstairs every second Sunday morning. Ben, Monica and Arjuna may host an Inward Journey meeting on Sunday afternoon.