Gathering around the table
Carrie Philpott is a mother and a friend. She is a sister, a daughter, a wife. She is a social worker and spiritual director. And she is acutely aware of her longing for a sense of purpose beyond herself and her family.
After attending a women’s retreat, thirsty for time to ponder, she left with an awareness of the suffering in the world and a desire to mobilise. With the words of the song “Inside My Kitchen” by Melbourne band Tiddas ringing in her heart, Carrie was aware of God’s vision for her life - to join together a sisterhood of women with an eternal perspective. ‘Our Kitchen Table’ is a mother’s group - with a unique purpose.
Carrie believes ‘Our Kitchen Table’ to be for women who are juggling the challenges of motherhood, but who are also deeply concerned about the world and longing to engage with issues of faith and justice. “For me, ‘Our Kitchen Table’ has been a safe place for women to explore their own feelings and frustrations. It’s been a place where women can take risks and try new things, knowing they have the support of their sisters,” Carrie says.
Our Kitchen Table’ involves a group of women and their children, who gather together every fortnight over a simple meal of soup and bread. Each family donates to the cost of the meal and together they invest their donations to TEAR projects. Aside from raising funds, the women engage in advocacy, letter writing and visiting politicians, learning about issues affecting other women elsewhere, and reflecting on their own lives and things they can do to live more sustainably.
“Being part of a mother’s group which has intentionally been both supportive and outwardly-focused, has been refreshing and life-giving. Meeting regularly has helped me to ruminate less on the “first world” concerns of my own life and to learn about and respond to the lives of women in the developing world,” Carrie says.
Remembering one particular conversation around the table, Carrie highlights how women and girls in parts of Africa are excluded from school and community activities while menstruating. “We talked about how menstruation can be uncomfortable and inconvenient for us, whilst for women elsewhere it can mean the difference between receiving an education or not.” In response to this new awareness, they were able to invest their meal money directly to TEAR supported women’s health projects in Zimbabwe. “It was wonderful to be able to learn together, reflect and respond in such a small but meaningful way.”
Carrie says creating a community of mothers who are passionate about issues has been a wonderful experience that she would highly recommend to others. “Find like-minded women who share your desire and let them know how you feel. This parenting business is tough going and it can feel like you are alone in it. You don’t need to be.”
‘Our Kitchen Table’ is a declaration of unity and purpose in a fragmented culture. “It is for the mother who doesn’t have it all together,” Carrie says. “It is for the woman who needs a village and wants to contribute meaningfully to a global village.”
‘Our Kitchen Table’ meets regularly in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and are at capacity with 6-7 members. However, Carrie would love to see ‘Our Kitchen Table’ groups spring up all over Australia. For more information you can contact Carrie via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily Black is a communications intern at TEAR Australia.