When I originally agreed to sign on as an apprentice at The Table, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I was originally supposed to take the pre-existing small scale food co-op that existed internally at The Table, and extend it into out as its own separate entity. Well, in a sense that's been turned on its head. Not completely, but the focus of the Common Cupboard has shifted dramatically. All in all I'm pleased with where it is, and where it's going. I'm in a good place now, but there have been times during the last 4 months where my head has been in my hands, with tears in my eyes, wondering, "why am I here, and what have I done?" Let's get into it...
Late april 2015
Immediately after school ended I began my apprenticeship at The Table. Most Table apprenticeships start in September, and the participants are protected from jumping too far ahead by having to wait until 80% of their funds are raised. This was not the case for me for a couple of reasons: 1) The apprentice who started The Common Cupboard (Stephanie Joy) was 8 months pregnant, and was leaving to join her husband who had his medical residency in a different part of the province. 2) The operations of The Common Cupboard couldn't just stop. It was built into the community too much, so it needed someone at the helm asap.
Like I said, I was fairly certain of what my role was going to be. That role, was solidified after various meetings with Josh (lead Church planter @ The Table) and another Mentor. We met on various occasions to strategize about how to make The Common Cupboard a separate, public, social enterprise. The goal was to use food as a way to draw people into community and christ. Simply put, I was to be the General Manager of a business. In addition to my time with my mentors, I was learning the ropes from Stephanie on how to run the current operations of The Common Cupboard. Anyways, these were the early days of my apprenticeship. I was nervous but felt good about the direction in which we were headed.
In the early morning hours of May 5th, My brother Jordan died at Victoria Hospice of an extremely rare form of liver cancer. I immediately took a week off work. It may of been more, but it's hard to tell because that part of the year is so blurry now. Looking back I was in the denial stage of grief. Not that I hadn't been able to accept that he was dying and did die, but it was more like being mystified. I kept thinking "did everything that I had to encounter over the last 7 months even happen?" It was totally surreal. Like a movie or something. So the first half of the week was tough, but I was able to whip myself back into shape because of the denial. Mid May involved more learning from Stephanie and strategizing.
Even though the week off was helpful in some ways, It wasn't necessarily restful. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I was exhausted from all the attention surrounding my brothers death. I'm the type of person who recharges in isolation, and I was in serious need of a getaway. I saw a window of opportunity at the end of May because it was Stephanie's last week, so I knew she could hold down the fort on her own. Where was my destination? Utah. How much time did I have? 5 days? Did I have a car? No.....but fortunately some friends at The Table were generous enough to lend me their car a few days before I left. So, I was off! I made it to my destination in 2 days. Zion National Park. My longest day driving was 18 hours. Little tip, don't do that alone....The trip met me well. Although not in the way that I intended it to. Originally I wanted the trip to be a time of intense processing. I wanted to put grief in a chokehold, but as I learned over the trip that's not the way it works. Grief is a journey, and it bares its ugly teeth whenever it feels like it. You just have to be ready to accept it, and embrace it whenever it shows up. I think more than anything I just needed some quiet. I needed mental and emotional rest. It was great to think about nothing other that the scenery around me, and the same 6 CD's on repeat. (this was not by choice.) The trip was healing in an unexpected way. I'm thankful for that.
JUNE 2015 - Shift In Vision.
I don't know if it was the trip alone, my brothers death, or divine inspiration, but I began to feel grossly uncomfortable with where the Common Cupboard was headed. It just wasn't sitting right with me anymore. The more research I did about pre-existing food co-ops in the city of Victoria the more apparent the redundancy of creating another one became. I don't just mean in terms of operations. The values of every food co-op I researched mirrored what we value at The Common Cupboard, but with one exception...Christ. And I really had no interest in trying to reinvent the wheel. On top of that I felt that having the common cupboard primarily function as commerce based project wasn't the right direction for it theologically and practically.
Another major issue was that I kept feeling frustrated with trying to explain to people why buying good food matters. Then one day in my frustration I had the thought, "With the way that Josh and Steve and I had been planning the common cupboard, we were trying to use it as a nexus to bring people IN to community, but It makes much more sense for CC to be used to go GO OUT into the community." The Table is a Missionary based church, Josh and Andy are always talking about mission, and building on missionaries for our actual physical neighbours. Luckily for the Common Cupboard, good food is already a value of the people of Victoria. It's a point of connection that can be used for relationship. There's already an established food culture in Victoria, why not primarily use Common Cupboard as a way to educate people about good food and what's going on around us. I felt strongly that I needed to get people to care about good food, so that they have an opportunity participate in their greater community. I believe Christ calls us to be out in this world, on the fringes with people who need Jesus. I'm not talking about just the poor, I'm talking about the average citizen of Victoria. So I saw that the main objective ahead of me was education. Education for the average comfortable christian. I felt my new calling was to challenge and minister to christians with education on how we can think differently about food so we can participate in the community around us. Immediately I felt at peace about it. I knew it was the right direction, and it still fit the original vision of "making good food more common". Now to start from scratch...
The first two weeks of July I was away in Alberta playing worship music with my friend Fraser Campbell at various churches and a Baptist youth retreat. When I got back on from that trip, Grief finally caught up with me. I was already feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of running The Common Cupboard, which included: fixing some financial issues, Figuring out how to disperse our meat inventory, initiate and manage orders, and figuring out its direction. All this was causing me great stress, and the grief just amplified things. On top of that I was trying to fundraise. So...I had a breakdown. I don't mean just a good cry. It was intense. So Josh decided it would be best to put a limit to my work during the week in order to heal. I check in with him every Monday and I am accountable to him with how much work I do during the week. Sometimes you need safeguarding.
After this point things started to improve. The breakdowns taught me that I couldn't do all of this alone. I needed people to share the load or Common Cupboard. I think the biggest contributing stress was the feeling of isolation and loneliness; thankfully, God heard me, and amazing people stepped up to help me. This caused the inception of Common Cupboard's committee, which includes fellow members of The Table: Mike, Sarah, and Zach. They've been a monumental help to me, and I completely trust them. The committee has been really great for the direction of The Common Cupboard. They have helped me to know what is an immediate need and what isn't, and have been a great sounding board for ideas, which has helped immensely. In addition to the committee, a couple people volunteered to be Common Cupboard representatives at Table South. With the split of north/south I couldn't be at two places at once, and since I'm up north that was a hole that needed filling. I know the sounds of a church splitting sounds bad, but in our case it's a good thing. If you need more information about this, feel free to email me.
Another major offshoot of The Common Cupboard that happened in July was the introduction of Common Cookeries. With CC going the direction of education, I felt that classes were a necessary ingredient of the new vision. The cookeries are a way to make things that seem inaccessible more accessible and affordable. They're also designed to give you new skills and raise your comfort level with food preparation so you can teach others in the future. They also serve as great way to invite you're friends or neighbours to experience a community of christians and teach them how christians can think about food. To give you a better picture, the last Cookery we did was focused on how to make the perfect cup of coffee at home. The class was broken into 2 sections: The first section of the class was all about knowledge and theory. Kyle (Coffee Instructor) Used beans from a local roaster and brewed the same coffee bean 4 different ways in order to show the spectrum of flavours you can pull out of the bean depending on how it's prepared. The second section was all about practice. Kyle educated the "students" on the holy trinity of coffee brewing: freshness, cleanliness, and consistency.
We also talked a great deal on buying practices for the average consumer. For example, we talked about the difference between fair trade and direct trade and what impacts they had on producers, pickers and quality. It's important to me to always try to tie these classes into how we can reconcile our broken relationship with food. I try to show people that what you buy, can have an impact on the world in a very real and positive way.
After July It became apparent to me that I needed to take better care of myself, I just didn't know how yet. I think about my job all the time and since it's not exactly 9-5, I feel like I'm working more than ever. Fortunately, God had a solution for me. Just a few days after my brother died I was at friend's wine release party. Before I left I ran into a guy named Mike who used to attend The Table, but left with his wife to buy a vineyard in North Cowichan. We never got the chance to get to know each other well back in the day, but we remembered each other enough to entertain a conversation. We got to talking, and he mentioned that people often come up to work on the vineyard to escape work and stress. It serves as a place of rest/recovery for people. Over the next couple of months his vineyard was in the back of my mind, but things didn't get bad enough until July for me to consider asking.
Flash forward to late July - I was a wreck, so i called him. He welcomed me up to the vineyard and we spent the day potting Sauvignon Blanc trimmings. It was tiring, but it was spiritually and mentally restful. I loved every minute of it. I had such a good time that after a few weeks I asked if I could come up again. Mike said of course, and few days later I showed up to help clip nets together over the vines to protect from birds. It was during that evening that Mike was talking about how tired he was and how nice it would be to have someone help out in the cellar. I asked how much time would be required of that potential person, and he said it would probably only be one day a week. My mind got to thinking, this would be a great way to practice what I've been preaching through The Common cupboard. Especially because Mike and Robin's growing practices are great. The situation was a mutual benefit because I could help Mike and Robin out for free, and hopefully help lower some stress, while I get to be a sponge and learn a ton of amazing knowledge first hand to pass on to my church community. I offered my services, and after thinking about it for a week or so, Mike accepted. Nowadays I'm usually up at the vineyard on Thursdays slowly becoming a wine nerd. It's been amazing, and I really believe God was the one who made this happen.
Back in August, my pastor Josh and I were out for a casual lunch and we got to talking about future of The Table's midweek home-groups. I expressed boredom with the monotonous routine of most home-groups that I've been apart of in the past, and shared a vision I had for a potential home group. I really wanted to focus on food and how it relates to God. Originally I just wanted a group that would focus on cooking meals together, and amidst the activity of cooking, seek to to have Christ revealed. One thing led to another with Josh and I's time together, and as we kept sharing ideas, the focus of the group shifted. By the end of our meeting we had a vision for the group that we thought was pretty exciting. We called it Food and Theology, and it's about letting the story of the bible be revealed through Food imagery as shown in various points of the biblical narrative. For example, the first class theme was Temptation/Fall. We looked at Genesis 2/3 and ate fruit with chocolate fondue as we discussed the theme. The fruit was symbolic of the given food in Genesis 2 and the Chocolate fondue of the prohibited tree/temptation in Genesis 3. The Course is 7 weeks long, and currently we're in week 3. It's been a significant challenge for me. I've never led a course before, let alone had to design a curriculum for one at the same time. Even though I've been stressed and tired trying to meet deadlines each week and make the content engaging, I've been totally blessed by God in the middle of it. From spending all this time in studying the narrative of the bible, I've already gained a more robust understanding of The God I love, and who loves me. (and I'm only a 1/4 of the way through the OT!) From what I've heard so far from the group, God is being revealed to many of them in a new way. I couldn't be more excited to be facilitating the love, hope and peace of his story.
And that takes us to right now. It's a really interesting experience to reflect and write down my past experiences. Honestly, I mostly just feel thankful. It's funny, when I was in the thick of most of these situations I felt scared, stressed and anxious. Constantly doing new things outside my comfort zone. Constantly being stretched and formed into a new person and being forced to adjust to the unfamiliar. There were many times when I felt like what I was doing was useless, directionless, and hopeless. But every time, God delivered. I think that's the beauty of reflection. It reminds me of the the part of the OT when the Israelites are wondering and keep grumbling about the unknown and what they don't have. God keeps reminding them to remember what He's done and trust what He's promised. In that story rest and pleasure come out of trust. I believe it's the same in our life. I want to encourage you now to take a moment to in your own way reflect on what God has done in your own life. I bet it's pretty incredible. So thank Him. Thanksgiving is the antidote to anxiety.
Speaking of thanksgiving, I want to extend giant thank you to all of you. You are a part of this story. It's been a team effort. I'm grateful not just for your financial support but also you're prayers, encouragement, emotional support and friendship. I'm blessed to have you on my team and in my life, so once again....THANK YOU
With love and hope in Christ,
Things you can pray for,
- Fundraising. I'm currently between 80-85% of my goal, so please pray for God to bring more people to help in this way. If you'd like to help me top up to 100% click >> HERE <<
- Stress/anxiety. This year has been a lot. I'm trying my best to take care of myself, but it's often not easy. please pray for peace and an overwhelming sense of thanksgiving in my life. I often forget to be in the moment and just think about things I can't control or all the should's. I should be doing this, I should be doing that. etc...
- Confidence. I'm constantly doing brand new things. So my confidence in myself is quite often low.
- Direction/Clarity. Specifically with the co-op part of The Common Cupboard. I'm trying my best to steer CC into a new place that makes sense for my community, but it seems constantly foggy.
- Grief. Please pray that God would have mercy and would grant me good perspective with my brothers death. Pray that God would continue to give me hope out of this situation, and that he would be present in my suffering and my families suffering. Also, please pray that my experience with Jordan's death can be used to draw people into God's kingdom now, and later on in life.