This might seem like a really strange topic. Worship and food. These two things do not seem to go together at all, at least not in a healthy way. We might think of people who, figuratively, worship food with their lifestyle, or who rely on food to deal with emotions (chocolate and cheese, anyone?) It could also spring to mind images of religious groups who do, quite literally, worship what we might see as food - viewing animals as gods and reveering them as being sacred above all else.
The kind of worship I'm thinking of here, as you might have guessed, is not either of those. It's not even the act of thanking God for our food before we eat it, as much as that is an important thing to do.
An act of worship that includes eating together is something we have been talking about for a while now - but which I have only recently really come to grasp on a new level.
When we started moving towards our CORE bible study becoming an evening service, there was a great deal of planning, praying, and a lot of enthusiastic dreaming. For many of those involved in this process, it felt like a monumental moment and a really important first for us. It was the first time many of us had been part of starting something completely brand new.
So we did what perhaps all twenty-to-thirty-somethings would if given the opportunity to start a new church service. We looked at the book of Acts.
In a very simplistic way, this became our template. We deliberately included the breaking of bread and prayer in our service - in the form of communion once a month (some of those who attend in the evenings don't get the chance to go to a morning service, and this is also something we enjoy sharing with one another as a smaller family within our wider church family). But we also very deliberately decided, from the very beginning, that we would eat together after our service. We break bread in our homes and eat together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of one another.
Over the course of my life, I remember some significant times when I have shared meals with people after church services. As a young girl, I can very distinctly remember Fellowship Lunches (90's church lunches were the bomb). In fact, I am so eager to bring these back that I've almost volunteered myself to organise one several times before realising that maybe someone who enjoys and is gifted in food preparation should handle that one. There is something about the amazing smell of sausage rolls, bread, soup and casseroles wafting out of the church hall as you leave the morning service that is just amazing. Whoever can bring, does. Everyone shares. Everyone has enough. There are usually leftovers. This, to me, is a perfect example of biblical bread-breaking.
Another strong memory is hot chips at our (very aptly named) After Church. Yes, this was the teens and young adults who would hang out... after church. It was held at our house, and for years I waited (impatiently - brushing my teeth in the doorway for 15 minutes just to watch them hang out) to reach high school and be allowed to stay up. Someone bought chips. Everyone shared. There were never leftovers (because teenagers and hot chips).
Breaking bread, forming community.
During the years we lived in Canberra, before marriage and children, we ate together with our friends after both the morning and the evening service. This probably had more to do with having disposable incomes and fast metabolisms, and usually involved Fortune Box for lunch and KFC while watching the F1 for dinner. We all brought our own, but I don't think anyone ever missed out, and I'm sure that people bought for one another over the years if there was ever need. This is a very different picture of breaking bread, but it's a part of what forms my experience of eating together in fellowship, and formed some of the strongest friendships of my lifetime.
Obviously, food and friendship have a strong connection in my mind.
This has shaped so much of what we have done with CORE. Everyone contributes if they can (if not, no one notices) as we all put in $5 towards the dinner. We often take it in turns cooking. Afterwards someone washes up (most of the time).
Over the course of the last year, this has particularly shifted from being a lot like our time in Canberra where we hung out in friendship, eating, and has become more like fellowship.
The conversation will often follow on from what was spoken about at the service beforehand. Or what is happening in people's lives. It's encouraging and uplifting. We pray together. Someone turns on the computer and plays 90's worship music in the background. People break off into smaller conversations. There is often a conversation around the hammock in the backyard, sometimes about philosophy, theology or just ideas about life.
The kitchen is where dreams are shared: it's where our prayer group started a few years ago. It's where realisations about who God is come about from passionate conversations. It's where people have begun to fall in love.
It has been a deliberate decision. Not to just eat together. Or even for everyone to bring their own food and eat what we can individually afford, together in a room, but separate in ways that are unspoken. We share in everything. We share in the decision to create a culture where dinner is an extension of the worship service - it's a time to glorify God in our conversations, in our jokes, in the advice we give to one another, and in the spirit of correction that sometimes has to be gently meted out.
Through this time, food and fellowship have become one of the most beautiful expressions of worship I have experienced. Every Sunday night as our home is filled to overflowing with hungry stomachs and full hearts, we see the beautiful expression of a God who created us to be like him: to be in relationship. When I think of our church, and the ways in which we worship God, sharing food is one of the most defining aspects of who we are and how we love.
Skye is our Worship Coordinator, and is exploring the beautiful challenge of how to worship when you can't even play the triangle.