There is no lack of enthusiastic endorsements for David Markay’s book, ‘Pasta and Plantains’. Sub-titled ‘Being the church together when everything else would keep us apart’, David writes as a Methodist pastor of the seven years that he and his wife Kristin spent as ministers to two intercultural congregations in Milan, Italy, from 2004 to 2011. David, a US citizen and a graduate of Duke University, North Carolina, now lives in Dronfield and serves on the Sheffield circuit of the Methodist Church in Britain.
The chances are that pasta and plantains would not find themselves together on many tables in Italy, Asia, Africa or elsewhere. The Italians, known for their particularity about food, might politely wag a finger as if to say “Non sì fa,” (it is not done). Guidelines, informed by years of tradition, are clear. Some things go together. Others do not… until, that is, the church mixes people up in one another’s lives. David provides a stimulating account of how people manage these challenges, as individuals and as part of a group.
The book is an inspiring collection of linked meditations that reflect on the challenges in a society grappling with diversity, and the lives of those who try to do the daily work of living in Christian community. His Italian communities are made up of people of different cultures, languages, temperaments, traditions, and all types of food (hence the pasta and plantains motif), trying to live together. From many sources, David finds relevant wisdom to illuminate the emotions, customs, hopes and beliefs of his congregations. He develops themes from snippets as varied as the Bible and Bruce Springsteen, the hospitality at the Lord’s Supper and at the kitchen table.
He finds grace in moments of exposed humanity – the comical and the conflictual.“…a unique handbook for learners of hospitality and grace,” writes Peter Storey, a South African Methodist pastor, bishop and seminary teacher, who endorses David’s book. Other testimonies come from authorities in the USA, Methodist Church organisations in Europe and Britain, and notably from Üllas Tankler, Executive Secretary for Europe and North Africa, United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, who writes, “Each story catches the reader by surprise in its beginning, with no predictability for where it will end…A book that does this is a book worth reading!”
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