Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
In a previous blog post I shared my own journey with God and food, expressing my desire that Quakers would eat more regularly together, even suggesting that Meeting for Worship is incomplete until food has been shared. Now I would like to expand on these thoughts.
Quakers speak a lot about the whole of life being sacred, faith in practice and letting our lives speak. Quakers are known for their activity in the world. However, to someone visiting a Meeting for Worship, they might see Quakerism as a dualist philosophy, favouring the spiritual over the material. To eat together as part of our worshipping activity makes the explicit the link between our inner and outer lives.
If Meeting and eating were inseparable, we would arrive at Meeting with heart and mind prepared, as well as an offering of food. We would hope to feast on both the bread of life and our daily bread, finding our spiritual and physical hungers satisfied. The conversation a meal encourages would help us to know each other in the things that are temporal as well as eternal, allowing us time to chew over and digest any vocal ministry offered to us during worship. Coming together to worship and eat communicates the nature of Quakerism as mystical activism.
The testimonies, communicated to us through our experience as a worshipping community, can be expressed through our eating. We can eat simple food, denying our greed or culinary pride. Through hospitality and service to one another, a shared meal can be a place of reconciliation where we make friends of enemies. The table can be a place of seeking, learning, teaching, debate and challenge. We can shatter social boundaries by our choice of dining companions, and express our hope for fair trade and a redistribution of goods. Paying attention prayerfully to what we eat opens our eye to our connection with the soil and seasons.
Importantly the peacemeal is an expression of hope:
Practicing the peacemeal would allow Christian Quakers to remember Jesus over food, as he instructed his disciples to do at the Last Supper.
The benefits of developing a table-fellowship are manifold:
This morning I visited a Meeting where the tea trolley was wheeled into the Meeting room. I liked that they weren’t precious about the space, allowing the holiness of hospitality to invade the holy space of worship. Our communities need to embrace a shared domestic life. I would love to see, at the conclusion of Meeting for Worship, a cloth and food placed on the central table, moving seamlessly from a fellowship of silent listening to a fellowship of noisy feasting, both foreshadowing, however dimly, God’s Kingdom.