The scullery. That was my favourite place. For those who aren’t sure, a scullery is ‘a small room for washing and storing dishes and utensils and doing other kitchen chores’. No, it wasn’t because of my recent attempt to catch up with the rest of the world and start watching Downton Abbey. And no, I’m usually not particularly fond of washing up.
I’d recently done some reflective prayer which suggested imagining yourself in your favourite place and then asking to meet God there. I don’t always get something out of that kind of thing, but on this occasion, I did. The scullery in question was in a big Tudor house where I lived as part of an international and interdenominational Christian community in my early 20s.
Around the tiled walls of this room were shelves for storing pots, cutlery and containers, a large fridge, two sinks, an old-fashioned, industrial-sized steamer and a large kettle. Tea towels hung drying on racks from the high ceiling. In the centre of the room was a square faded yellow Formica table surrounded by wooden stools. When no one else was around, this was a very peaceful place to sit and have a cup of tea. But this was not when it was at its best.
The scullery came into its own when it was a hub of community activity – like chatting with others as we peeled and chopped windfall apples around the yellow table. Carrying on the lunchtime conversation as we did the washing up; two washing, several drying and everyone else putting away. Cups of tea or coffee as we came in to take a break from our work in the morning or afternoon. Why meet God here of all places, instead of in the beautiful church or the expansive gardens?
What I felt in my prayer time was that God was like the yellow table in the scullery. A place where this new family gathers and gets all the bread that it needs for the journey ahead. The centre of our common task and purpose but also a place of joy and celebration and rest. A place where we receive affirmation in our difference and the words that we most need to hear in order to grow.