There are some things about the south that deeply trouble me like racism and the popularity of guns but in many ways I cherish my “southern style” upbringing where everyone was sugah, or honey or darlin’. There’s much to be learned, I believe, from the southern charm of good manners, simple kindnesses, and hospitality. Much to be appreciated about graciousness and generosity.
One of the sayings I often remember hearing as a girl growing up in Georgia was “a gracious plenty.” As in, “Honey come on in to the table and eat with us, we’ve got a gracious plenty.” This phrase, a gracious plenty, is cheerfully used in the south when welcome, hospitality and food come together. A gracious plenty means abundance, lots of, more than enough to share.
This reality was most evident at the annual church homecoming “dinner on the grounds”. Long tables would be set up outside under the pine trees and filled with platters of barbeque, southern style fried chicken, mounds of potato salad, dozens of deviled eggs, baskets of biscuits, bowls of green beans, cole slaw, corn on the cob, along with gallons of sweet tea and plenty of homemade cakes and pies.
The goodness in these church dinners taught me about the generosity of God lived out in a community of faith. None of these churches were huge in size but they were certainly huge in spirit. All too often these days I hear about scarcity in the church. “We don’t have enough people, we don’t have enough money, there’s not enough time, not enough, not enough, not enough. But the truth is we have a gracious plenty!
People come to church to be part of a community that practices a gracious plenty of love, care, mercy and forgiveness. Throw in food, fun and fellowship along with joyful worship and you’ve got yourself a gracious plenty church. The grace of a gracious plenty is that there is enough, more than enough, of what we need to be the church. We just have to start believing we have a gracious plenty. For our God is a God of abundance and provides for our every need, just ask the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.