Submitted into Contest #100 in response to: Write a story where a meal or dinner goes horribly wrong.... view prompt


Christian Contemporary Friendship

The hall was a hive of activity. Several ladies were in the kitchen slicing and buttering bread, making salads, watching the two ovens like hawks. At first, there seemed very little to offer, and the committee wondered if it would have to organise take away, but no, the word had got around and the people associated with the parish or those who had been touched by the ministry arrived each contributing their thanks.     The committee watched on; it had all been worth it.    

Twelve weeks earlier

The storm had awoken the community. The devastation in the area was monumental, at first light; but on inspection, the hall and surrounds could indeed be fixed. Although a bit of a relic in its way the storm left an eerie quality to the building. She was a grand old lady pushed but not broken, all was not lost. The church was once a haven standing tall amidst the bushland outline. As time went by and some of the land became available for young folk to build homes it weathered the storms of life, offering shelter to those in spiritual need. It was indeed a meeting place for those whose habit it was to visit and worship on Sundays, and any other day in between. Today it looked tired and in need of comfort, or perhaps in need of comforting others. Her doors were always open, much like a woman who took on many children, her own and others in need of her presence.

It had not always been easy. At one time the hall provided shelter for the homeless when one of the well-known charity shelters had its share of woes. The community did its best to look after those in need. Father Don Bingham had been at the parish for years. He too had weathered a few storms. His thoughts of retirement were fleeting as once again even the proverbial storm clouds gathered, and he went into battle, feverishly. 

He wandered through the parish hall.  Surveying the mess, he really did not know what to think. He took the side door; the outer path led to the church. All in the chapel was intact and for that he was grateful. If necessary, the board could meet in the church, for needs must, but he did not think it likely that the hall was safe and therefore unsuitable for the planned meeting. He heard the door slam and turned hoping it was not an intruder. It was Sean from Donegal, a builder to trade and a trusted friend.

“Ah, tis yerself, Father. How did the building fare in your opinion?” 

Father Bingham placed his forefinger at his lips. Of necessity, they had to leave the chapel it being a place of prayer and solitude, not gossip. The two men walked quickly outside.

“Regarding your question, I’m not sure, to be honest, Sean, I’m a builder of souls, you see!” he answered ruefully “have you looked around?”

“Oh, to be sure Father.” answered Sean “I tell you what I’ll grab a few of the lads and we will see what we can do to straighten it up; being that the church plans for the dinner need to be considered.”

“Yes, I had not forgotten.” said Father Bingham “we may have to delay the plans. Will it be expensive, this extra work?”

“The electrician will be expensive Father, but me and the lads we will sort our work out never fear.”

“I’m grateful to you Sean.” Bingham patted the other man’s shoulder “I suppose I’d better be getting back home or Mrs Mack will be telling me off for not having breakfast.” They left the building laughing together.

When he came through the back door Mrs Mack appeared to be ready but the radio was on at 9.00am and that was not a good sign. She was standing near it her eyes like saucers, her hand to her mouth. She turned at the sound of his step.

“Oh, Father thank goodness you are back   I heard someone outside talking about the devastation of the storm and as you hear it’s on the news already!” she was thoughtful “How have the church buildings fared, Father?   How will it affect services or confession, and …ooh what about the dinner?”

“Well, I’ve left Sean and his lads to see what can be done, Mrs Mack. We will know more once I hear from him. Now, can I have my breakfast please?”

“Surely, Father. I won’t be long.” Usually, Mrs Mack could be heard humming a tune or singing a little off-key. Not at this moment, she was not happy, no, not happy at all! True to form, she would be telling anyone prepared to listen; as only the Celts could.

He called an essential meeting, in their home. Sean was there, bless him, as was the junior priest, John Murphy. Mrs Mack bustled about with coffee and cake. Father Bingham called them to order

“Right folks. Firstly, I would like Sean to give us a progress report as to his findings about the hall.”

“Eh, thank you, Father,” Sean took a deep breath. “I had a look round the hall and despite the storm, it is not bad at all. We need to secure the outer wall and the floor towards the front and if the electrics allow, we might put a lick of paint on the old girl just for good measure. A week’s work I’m thinkin’.”

“What about electrics?” the question came from a businessman who rarely attended anything unless it or he was important.

“Actually, I was about to tell you all Sir.” Sean was not phased “as discussed with Father Bingham, an electrician is necessary to go over the complexities It will be costly irrespective, our efforts to rebuild or restructure will be wasted unless we get a certificate of compliance. My team is willing to do our work free of charge if the board can see to payment for the electrician.”

The businessman nodded “I thought as much. My wife and I will donate towards the electrics.”

Father Murphy spoke hesitatingly at first.

Thank you, Mr White. Sean, we thank you so much for your hard work and kindness on this project.” he turned to the others “I move a motion that we leave this part of proceedings in Sean’s hands.” It was of course, unanimous.

The telephone rang  about an hour later

“Boleyn Parish Father Bingham speaking.” the caller identified herself but was so distraught that it took every ounce of Bingham’s patience to get the gist.

“Mrs Reid am I to understand that the buildings used by the charity are inhabitable?” he listened carefully “oh praise be I thought your clients were back on the streets!” he laughed “yes I am sure we can help you out in due course. What say I ring to confirm by tomorrow?”

Mrs Mack and John were in earshot and naturally wanted to know.

“Our friends in High Street have a few problems because of the storm, and Mrs Reid wonders if the church would see fit to hire our hall for their own annual dinner.”

“I’ve got an idea, Father,” said Mrs Mack. “Why don’t we combine the two dinners, after all, it is a community outreach plan!”

“What a splendid idea Mrs Mack,” said Father Murphy “I think it would work.”

“So do I,” said Father Bingham “I think I will ring the rest of the committee members.”

By week’s end, the date was set, and the hall refurbishment had started. Life was beginning to get back to normal.

The night of the dinner was twenty-four hours away. Still, there was the worry that there would be insufficient food, many hostesses have had that fear. Father Bingham looked up at the tapestry he had hung in the study, depicting the Last Supper just prior to the Crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

Breaking bread had been done for years. He felt certain that this dinner would be a success, particularly if the Lord had His nail printed hand in it. 

July 02, 2021 06:58

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Tommie Michele
04:10 Oct 14, 2021

I like this story! The backstory you gave to the church and your descriptions of the church and the storm were enjoyable to read. I liked all of your characters, too, and how you had the mini-prologue at the start of the story. If I had one suggestion, it would be to double-check your dialogue punctuation. Nice work, Claire! --Tommie Michele


Claire Tennant
22:53 Oct 14, 2021

Thank you Tommie for your encouragement


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