2015: Advent Religion: Love Feast

by on December 5, 2015

Even in the churches who fall down on applying it – like the ones I grew up in – the talk about church meaning people is not empty. It is sincerely meant. We really did believe that the place was not sacred, and the forms of the worhip service were not sacred, and only the people, God’s people gathered together, could properly be called the church.

We really did care about community. We had no understanding of how to be one, but we wanted to be. We wanted to know about each other’s lives, to care about each other and be cared about in return. We thought it was important.

It was heavily ritualised precisely because we didn’t know what we were doing.

We had a few theories. Chief among them was that it was important to eat together. But there were too many of us to all sit down to a meal. We tried it once. It was awful. We could do about half the regular attendees with a hog roast or a whole lot of chicken drumsticks and sausage-inna-buns, and every year or so we’d find an excuse to do that. But that wasn’t regular.

We believed – and honestly, I have never gone back to either the Bible or the history books to figure out whether this is true, but I believe it like I believe unremarkable facts, not like I believe points of doctrine – that the earliest churches did Communion – that is, commemorated the Last Supper – with an actual meal. We had no conceptual space for that in our services, no way to integrate really interacting with each other with a church meeting. I think now that that was less a fact about how a worship service can work, and more a fact about the poverty of our imaginations. But we knew that originally, Church and the community-building act of eating together had been united. We couldn’t do it as Communion, so we did it after the service proper had ended, as Fellowship.

In that biscuit and cup of instant coffee rested all our hopes of being a better people.

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