In the South it used to be called dinner-on-the-ground, but more and more you hear people calling it pot-blessing or pot-providence. I’m referring of course to the potluck dinner.
No doubt many of the same Christians who are careful to avoid referring to deviled eggs and halloween in their conversations are also avoiding the word potluck. If you ask them why they do that, the reason they might give is that “there is no luck in the Kingdom of God, only blessings.” This is the same reason why you will hear Christians refer to Godincidences instead of coincidences. God is always in control!
Proverbs 18:31 says: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” To that end, Christians are often keen to affirm and reaffirm what the Bible teaches with each and every word they speak. So when it comes to potlucks, rather than imply that they believe in luck (as if!), they will refer to a potluck dinner as a communal lunch, a fellowship meal, a shared dinner, a hot-dish providence, a pot faith, a pot providence, a pot trust, or a providence meal. As you can see, the word “luck” in those phrases has been replaced by Biblical virtues: providence, faith, trust, sharing, and fellowship. It’s hard not to admire someone who hangs a tiny cross on even the littlest words in their vocabulary.
Below you can read the draft entries for pot blessing and several related words. I had fun hunting down quotations for these entries. If you read the historical quotations in the gray boxes, you’ll see how people have actually used these words down through the years.
By the way, if you are interested in signing up to be a volunteer research assistant and helping me to track down historical quotations for various Christianese words, please drop me a line! You get to pick the words you research, and I guarantee you’ll learn a lot!
carry-in dinner n. An alternative term for potluck. See additional information at *pot blessing.
communal lunch n. Syn *pot blessing.
fellowship dinner n. Syn *pot blessing.
fellowship meal n. Syn *pot blessing.
hot-dish providence n. Syn *pot blessing.
pot blessing n. Also: pot-blessing dinner. Euphemism for the communal meal traditionally called a potluck; the euphemism omits what is perceived to be a reference to luck.
I. Related words II. Disapproval of “luck.” III. Etymology of potluck.
I. More euphemisms for pot luck are: *communal lunch, *fellowship meal, *fellowship dinner, *hot-dish providence, *pot faith, *pot providence, *pot trust, *providence meal, and *providence supper.
There are some synonyms for potluck that non-Christians use too, and so those words can’t really be called Christianese. But since some of these synonyms feature so prominently in church culture, they are noted here (and a couple of them have gotten separate entries): carry-in dinner, covered-dish dinner (or supper), *dinner on the ground, shared dinner, and *tureen dinner (or supper).
Another kind of communal Christian meal that is somewhat different from a potluck is the *agape feast (or *agape meal).
II. The desire to avoid referring to fortune, luck, and chance may be influenced by a literal interpretation of verses such as Isaiah 65:11-12: “But ye that forsake Jehovah, that forget my holy mountain, that prepare a table for Fortune [i.e., Luck], and that fill up mingled wine unto Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter” (asv).
Other euphemisms meant to avoid references to fortune, luck, and chance are: *Godincidence; *good providence; and *providence cookie.
III. The modern meaning of the word potluck as a participatory meal seems to have arisen in the late 19th century; the earliest citations in the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.) are from 1867, 1894, 1924, and 1926. It’s unlikely that the North American usage of the word potluck was influenced by the Native American custom of potlatch.
See also *euphemisms.
• 1981 Alton Telegraph (Illinois) (2 May) 13 : The Teachings of Christ Fellowship … Special Pot Blessing Luncheon, Sunday 1 p.m. 1995 The Hamilton Spectator (9 Sep.) : The Bethel Single Adults will hold an end-of-summer celebration and pot blessing dinner Saturday, Sept. 16, at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle 1999 The State Journal-Register (18 Sep.) : A pot blessing lunch will be held at 12:30 p.m. 2001 Roanoke Times and World News (31 Mar.) : Fellowship and a Pot Blessing meal will follow the service. 2002 Haggard Dog Training, Fly Fishing, And Sharing Christ in The 21st Century 58 : The church did a great job of teaching the Bible on Sundays and Wednesdays in the main services, and offered fun activities from time to time, such as pot-blessing dinners, hay rides, and retreats for various groups within the congregation. It was a productive church. 2003 Chicago Daily Heraldn (21 Apr.) : Parishioners at the Marengo church started the services with a meal and a prayer over the food called the pot blessing. 2003 Jackson The Yada Yada Prayer Group ch. 18 : “Girl, I didn’t bring no food for no potluck,” Florida whispered back. … “Don’t worry about it. There’s always plenty.” She smirked at me. “Well, that ain’t no potluck then. More like a pot blessing, I’d say.” 2005 Mercer The Warm Wonderful World of Hospitality 26 : Classic Potblessing (Potluck). Ever popular among church crowds, potblessings remain so for three main reasons. 2008 Bierman Yes! 121 : I was invited to a covered-dish party that was to be at Ralph and Mary’s home one evening. It was called a “pot-blessing,” rather than a “potluck” party. 2009 Brown The Racial and Cultural Divide: Are We Still Prejudiced? 86 : There is nothing like the food and its preparation around our church. We have something called “Pot Blessing.” It’s an offshoot of “potluck,” and since we say “there’s no luck in the Kingdom of God, only blessings,” we have, as a result, derived the name “Pot Blessing.”
pot faith n. Syn *pot blessing.
• 2008 Joffe Square Peg in a Round Hole 95 : A congregational “pot faith” meal followed services almost every Sunday. 2008 Duggar The Duggars: 20 and Counting!: Raising One of America’s Largest Families 220 : We host a lot of different gatherings, most often our weekly home-church services, which bring fifty or so people into our home every Sunday for worship followed by a “pot-faith” lunch. (Jim Bob doesn’t believe in luck.)
potluck n. Some Christians avoid using this word because of concern about referring to luck. See *pot blessing.
pot providence n. Syn *pot blessing.
• 1976 The Presbyterian J. vol. 35 : Instead of assigning dishes for a “pot providence” supper, ask everyone whose last name begins with the letters A–M to bring a main dish, and everyone whose last name begins with the letters N–Z to bring a side dish, salad, or dessert. 1995 Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Communicator vols. 5–6 : On Monday evening the first in a series of “pot providence” dinners will be held. 1999 Baptist Bulletin vol. 65 : They still shared “pot-providence” meals in the same fellowship hall. 2000 The Acts and Proceedings of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada : The chapel ministry is supplemented by Sunday school, monthly ‘pot providence’ lunches after church, a weekly Bible study 2005 Lindvall et al. Ekklesia: To the Roots of Biblical House Church Life ch. 2 : The meal is potluck, or as we jokingly say, “pot-providence.” 2009 Joyce Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement 110 : After a four-hour service, the families gathered together for an all-day fellowship, sharing a pot-providence meal, the children playing together in grassy fields till five or six in the evening.
pot trust n. Syn *pot blessing.
providence meal n. Syn *pot blessing.
providence supper n. Syn *pot blessing.
shared dinner n. An alternative term for potluck. See additional information at *pot blessing.
tureen dinner n. Also: tureen supper. An alternative term for potluck. See additional information at *pot blessing.
• 1932 Missions: A Baptist Monthly Mag. vol. 23 55 : We meet once a month at the church for a tureen supper at 6:30, followed by a business and program meeting. 1934 International J. Religious Education vol. 11 20 : Early in March, there is held a “church family day” on a Sunday. A special speaker is secured for the morning worship service. A “tureen dinner” is served in the dining room following Sunday school, and then there is community singing. 1940 The Lutheran vol. 22 iss. 18 27 : The annual congregational meeting of Zion Church … was preceded by a tureen supper, and the attendance was the best in many years. 2001 Frankforter Stones for Bread: A Critique of Contemporary Worship 23 : But it also gathered congregations for agapes or “love feasts,” full-fledged dinners not unlike a modern church’s “potluck” or “tureen” suppers. 2002 Hammond Ohio States: A Twentieth-Century Midwestern 14 : If you had observed the Hammond family sitting in a pew at Howard Methodist on a Sunday morning or heard Mom chatting with the other ladies as they set out their dishes for a tureen supper in the church basement, you would have sensed nothing amiss. 2011 Frankforter Word of God, Words of Men: The Use and Abuse of Scripture 103 : Bugs would make an alarming, but scripturally validated, addition to a church tureen dinner.