Eating begins with shopping – or really, growing (and some churches do have gardens, to their credit). When we shop for the church, do we consider where the food is coming from, how it was raised, how its cultivation impacted the earth and the farmers? Do we think about the people who might be enslaved to pick produce, or despite doing all the work, receive only a tiny portion of the price we pay for coffee? Do we know what legislation affects people who work in agriculture, and do we advocate on behalf of the powerless and put-upon? There are safeguards in place: fair trade organizations, rainforest certification, humane certification, and organic laws which specify some quality conditions for animals and people and protect the environment. These are easy shortcuts to help us consider more than the price tag when buying our food.
One of the simplest changes a church can make is to commit to buying only fairly traded coffee and tea for their social events. It’s a very small impact on your budget for a huge impact on people’s lives. Equal Exchange is a great organization to get involved with in this regard.
Quite apart from how healthy food is for our bodies – and that is a consideration because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, we are an embodied religion – when we shop for food, we can live out our Christian calling to love our neighbors and steward the earth and animals simply by what we choose to purchase.
Churches can practice community building through sharing meals and serving one another as cooks, cleaners, and all the other jobs that make them happen. These are very important ministries. When you cook for your church community, you literally build up the body of Christ! The recipes you bring in can teach us about your family, history, and origins; they can teach us about another part of the world, another people. We can use these meals to honor the traditions handed down by the saints who have gone before us.
And of course we eat – together! The family meal is nearly a forgotten art. And at the church, we have our church family meal. All the generations gather around the table. We share more than food: we share ourselves, our spirits. When Christians gather, God is there. When we open ourselves up to one another, we find healing, community, and growth. Jesus, so often, ate with other people. It was one of the primary ways he connected with other human beings while on earth. We do well to follow his example – and understand it to be a spiritual act.
So if you’re with a church community, I challenge you to brainstorm and see if you can come up with ways to include worshipful, mindful eating in your community life. How can we be more cognizant of the paths our food has taken to get to us, and who was affected along the way? Might we open ourselves up to expanding our circle of friends, to interacting across generations? Are we willing to bring in a recipe that tells a bit about ourselves, maybe from our family or country of origin? What other ways can we make a meal – or even the coffee hour – an intentionally worshipful experience for all who attend?
This blog is here to help. My goal is to help churches get more worship into our meals and more meals into our worship.