Here’s a little how-to when it comes to the practicalities of hosting a NYNO meeting centred around a meal.
Some Basic Principles
Keep Things Special and Simple
We want to keep our breakfast gatherings as special as possible but also as simple to prepare as possible. For us, it meant a couple of loaves of homemade bread with butter and jam, and tea and coffee. Of course, you can use your own recipes, but we’ve included some of the ones we’ve used below in case you find that helpful.
If there is a suitable oven in or close to the meeting area, doing some baking on the day creates some wonderful smells. Practically speaking we have found it sensible to do as much preparation as possible before we arrive, and then perhaps have one thing prepared, ready to pop in the oven during the hour before the meeting. Of course, if you had people who wanted to get together early and bake on the day that could be fun! Just so long as it doesn’t become a chore and people’s service doesn’t begin to displace our participation in worship as the most important thing.
We’ll discuss liturgy in another place. But here it’s enough to say that how we sit together matters. We always try to give the impression of everyone sat round one table. Practically we can’t actually do this but we attempt to arrange what tables we have in something of a circle, with everyone seated around the outside. Here’s a diagram to illustrate.
The blue squares are square dining tables, the yellow squares dining chairs. We arrange four of these tables into one large table at each end of the room and place dining chairs around three sides of the large table so that people are facing inwards to the room.
The red tables are are low coffee tables around which we place comfy arm chairs (green squares).
It’s more important to us that people should be aware of being sat round a table together than that they should be able to hear a speaker. Our meeting is more about emphasizing the participation of the people than the performance of the preacher.
To set up with normally arrive an hour before the beginning of the meeting. This allows enough time to set out the seating, do any baking
Each table setting has a plate, cup and saucer, knife, and serviette, along with the liturgy.
For a breakfast of up to 30 people:
- One packet of butter, cut into cubes and served in small dishes.
- One jar of jam, served in small dishes
- About 2 pints of milk for teas and coffees, in four little milk jugs.
- A couple of sugar bowls, but we find that very few people take sugar in their beverages.
- A packet of fresh, ground coffee which last us 2 meetings. We make two large cafetieres of coffee and four pots of tea.
We have clusters on the tables consisting of a plate of bread; milk jug, sugar bowl and teaspoons; butter and jam servings. They serve about 5-6 people. They should be in easy reach, and people are encouraged to serve one another. At the appropriate time, teapots and cafetieres are brought through from the kitchenette and again, we serve each other.
The liturgy we’ve been using will be discussed elsewhere, in brief outline though the meal goes as follows. Before we eat, we say grace together. As we share breakfast, we enjoy fellowship with one another. At this point, we also offer around little forms and give people space to write down any items for prayer. Our meal is drawn to a focus point by taking all the items for prayer to God before one another in silent prayer. We say the Lord’s Prayer together and sing a final hymn. We bring our meeting to a close by speaking aloud the benediction to one another.
Time disappears during a meal! But we strive to keep the whole meeting to about 45 minutes. That way people stay longer because they want more breakfast, or to talk to one another and not because the service is dragging on …
Afterwards, we have found that people are very keen to stay and enjoy further fellowship. We are always inundated with people willing to help with the clear-up, dish-washing and drying, and taking leftovers home!
Irish soda bread
Here’s a recipe for a simple soda bread. It’s fine to make the day before and bring to the meal pre-sliced. It’s a recipe by James Martin and can be found at bbc.co.uk/food .
- 170g/6oz self-raising wholemeal flour
- 170g/6oz plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 290ml/½ pint buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
- Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
- Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)
- Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.
- Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
- Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
We find that 3-4 loaves is plenty for around 25-30 people to have a couple of thick slices each.
Hot Cross Buns
Here’s a recipe for Hot Cross Buns, that worked so well on Easter Day, we may have to do it again before long. It was based on the recipe here.
It worked well to largely prepare this the night before, leaving the buns on trays in the fridge over night, covered in clingfilm. I took them out of the fridge for a gentle second rising first thing in the morning. They’re ideal to bake just before a meeting because they only take 12 minutes and so have time to cool down before icing, ans also because they reate an impressive aroma.
- 240 ml of whole milk
- 2 packages dry yeast (5 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup (115g) currants
- Zests from 1 orange and 1 lemon or 1 lime
- 1/2 cup (110g) sugar
- 4 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 500 grams by weight
- 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 140 grams of cold butter, cut in small bits
- Additional flour for kneading
- 2 tablespoons of milk
- 1 tablespoon of melted butter
- 250g icing sugar
- PROOF the YEAST In a small dish, heat milk in microwave about 1 minute to 105F – 115F. Gently stir in yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- SOAK the CURRANTS In a small bowl, whisk egg and yolk well. Stir in currants and zests. Set aside.
- MIX the DOUGH In large bowl, stir together 1/2 cup sugar, flour, spices and salt. With fingertips, blend butter into flour until a coarse meal forms (I’ve use the food processor for this stage). Make well in center, pour in yeast and currant mixtures. Blend thoroughly with hands, then form into ball and transfer to lightly floured counter. (Don’t worry, the dough will be sticky. If it starts off too sticky to knead on the counter, just knead it right in the bowl.) Knead 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible, just enough to work dough without any stickiness when the kneading is done.
- FIRST RISE Transfer dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, first rubbing the dough mass against the bowl to lightly coat all sides with oil. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- FORM BUNS & SECOND RISE With a fist, gently deflate dough. Cut into 30 pieces. I cut the dough into 6 and divide from there. Form buns and arrange on two or three baking non-stick baking trays. If you’re preparing the night before, cover gently with cling film and place in fridge.
- BAKE Preheat oven to 200º C (180º in a fan oven). Bake for about about 12 minutes.
- ICING. The icing can be prepared the night before and kept in the fridge. If it’s too stiff to pipe in the morning, place it in a microwave for 2 or 3 seconds – no more. For the icing, blend a tablespoon of melted butter with 2 tablespoons warm milk and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir in about 250g of icing sugar. For Easter, pipe in crosses or on other occasions, more simply spread across the top of he buns.
Julie and Matthew