Eating Together Faithfully
There is a growing movement of food awareness in our society and in our church. Fruit is being added to school lunches, soda machines now include water and juice. Movie theaters now provide information about the calories in every snack they offer -- a small popcorn often runs over 500 calories, and a soda more than 400. And then there is the sugar content…
But our growing food awareness isn’t just about calories and fat content. Nor even about healthy diet, though that is part of it. More and more, we are also becoming aware of the source of our food – where it comes from, how it is grown, the treatment of the laborers who harvest it. It is certainly a secular movement, with the health food stores of the 1970s becoming substantial chains, and leading grocery store chains without health food heritage are finding ways to get on board with the trend. Foods are promoted as organic or fair trade, and some small sections of the market are set aside for local products or produce.
For Christians, intentional, mindful food consumption is also a matter of faith. It connects with creation care – what are the chemicals used in cultivating the food we eat, and where do those chemicals end up? It connects with justice – how are the laborers treated and paid? It connects with individual health and well-being – if our bodies are a gift from God, how does the food we eat connect with our blood pressure, our cholesterol, our weight?
Add to the mix the social aspects of eating food. Eating food with another person is different from eating food alone. Eating food with the people of our congregations can be realized as an extension of the Eucharistic Feast, and a means to understand more fully what it is to be part of the Body of Christ, as we break bread together.
Then there is the opportunity for conversation and shared reflection over food.
The monastic tradition invites readings and listening while eating. Many 21 century Americans check the internet or watch the television with dinners perched on small tables or trays. Church suppers, or socials, can be inviting, especially for extroverts. But the conversations can be superficial, and the setting a challenge to the introverts among us.
In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the Advocate’s House dinners, in which the conversations are focused by a shared prompt, and all cross talk is discouraged. People take turns responding to the prompt. More recently, our congregation has engaged in a project of Life Around the Table, called Eating Together Faithfully. Over a series of eight sessions, a light shine on aspects of our food, our eating, our bodies, our health, our faith and our world. Each gathering, as food is shared, so is prayer, and scripture, and facts and experiences. Reflections at each gathering focus on daily matters of food as well as theological connections. Eg: Local/Incarnation, Affordable/grace, Uncomplicated/the ordinary made holy, Good/justice. Healthy/flourishing, Seasonal/time and liturgy. Our perspectives are expanded, our habits changed, and our connections with one another deepen.
As the holiday season approaches, with food so very much in view, this is a good time to think about how we might think about food, and how sharing our reflections might deepen our connections with God, with one another, and with the world in which we live.