All Saints and All Souls: A Last Beatitude

All Saints and All Souls: A Last Beatitude. (please click on this link).

We had a lovely “Day of the Dead” pot-luck supper in the Common House on the night of November 1st. It was lovely because lots of us were there, and we all sat down to eat together. It was also lovely because a wide range of dietary needs, tastes, preferences and principles were accommodated. There was vegan and vegetarian food as usual, but things were arranged so that meat dishes could also be enjoyed in a way which (I think and hope) was sensitive to the non-meat eaters.

This may not sound like a big deal; but who eats what in the Common House is a hot topic at present, as we try to hammer out our policy and practice now that we are all living here (lots of policies were first drawn up in the “build phase” by those who pioneered the Lancaster Cohousing project). It seems to me that two of our community ideals are sometimes in tension: the ideal of being inclusive and that of trying to live sustainably. It turns out that eating a regular diet with a low-carbon footprint (vegan, veggie, heavy on pulses and carbs) does not suit the health needs of a significant minority of us, including those with diabetes, those with allergies, and some with digestive difficulties. Then there are those with strongly-held dietary principles, who not only avoid meat and fish (and in some cases all animal products) for themselves, but are really uncomfortable if such products are served in their presence. And then there are those who really like meat (though they might think carefully about where it came from and about animal welfare), and don’t want common meals to have such a strong vegan/vegetarian bias.

I don’t fit any of these descriptions. I am happy and able to eat most things, and while I like meat and fish, I don’t hanker for it if it’s not on the menu (I should point out that in our own houses, we all eat whatever we like). But, inasfar I hold a position, I think, for me, striving for “inclusion” probably just trumps striving for “sustainability”.

The link above prompted some further thoughts about inclusion and our “intentional community”. And at our pot-luck supper, I was appealed to as one who might know about the ecclesiastical calendar (what does “Hallowe’en” actually mean? What is remembered on All Saints and All Souls Day?). Though the language in the link is traditionally Christian, I found myself agreeing with the message about inclusion, and then the message about the quiet workers who do the unglamorous jobs which keep a community going.

Among us co-housers, there are the high-profile ones – the ones with clout, the ones who are visible. Even though in principle and on principle we aim to share out the mucky and unpopular jobs (like cleaning), somehow, still, some are more equal than others. Maybe it’s the same in any group. There are those who say less, but graft away quietly at the little unseen jobs. And keep going. A lot of what life is about seems to me to be just about keeping going.

Among us co-housers, there are several who would call themselves Buddhists or Quakers, and one (at least) who is Jewish. There are lots who don’t have any affiliation. I am not aware of any traditional Christians (maybe they are there, quiet and unseen). But, whatever, I think that this take on All Saints and All Souls has something to say to us, and it’s simply this. There may be key players and those on the margins, those who voice their opinions and those who don’t, but we are all in this together. Let’s keep going.


One comment

  1. Hello Elizabeth,
    It’s interesting reading about an all saints – all souls supper here which was so thoughtful and far from the commercial import that is most children’s current experience of Hallowe’en. I’ve just returned from a week in Croatia – my mother and her family are from Zagreb and my grand-mother passed away there this summer. My family and I were there for the internment of my grand-mother’s ashes and to begin to sort through her extraordinary flat, where she had lived for 72 years and where my mother grew up. The reason I mention this is that in Croatia – a largely Catholic country – there is a very strong tradition of visiting the family grave / ancestors. I had to fight to get onto a bus with my children to make our way to the vast and beautiful old cemetery of Mirogoy as all week people were flooding to the graveyard to visit ancestors, clean the tombstones and graves, bring flowers and candles and remember their dead. This tradition also saw candles lit everywhere in the city as people prayed for their loved ones who’d passed away and the culmination, on All Saints’, of families travelling across Croatia to reunite and eat a meal together.
    My eldest child – almost 10 – was initially very sorry to be going to Croatia over Hallowe’en, upset to be missing it here, and particularly a Hallowe’en party that one of her friends has each year, where they all go trick or treating. I couldn’t help but bemoan the different way in which she now thinks of celebrating Hallowe’en as compared with her Croatian relations. I was even sorrier to see that the American Hallowe’en we have is starting to touch Zagreb and that there is an uneasy jostling of the children wanting this kind of Hallowe’en and the traditions of old.
    Then I began to think however that what we really need is a more explicit dialogue between the two – which are of course linked – and that somehow the dead, in whatever shape we choose to think of them/engage with them at Hallowe’en / on All Saints, need to be talked about more. My children certainly had this experience since they were staying in their dead great-grand-mother’s flat and spent a considerably amount of time amongst the graves of others. What they made of all of this however, in contrast to what they would have experienced at Hallowe’en parties and carving a Jack-o-lantern, I have no idea…!
    Best, Laura

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