January 23, 2015 by Worship, Community, Formation
“Right, then, what should we do about lunch?”
The event being planned is a conference for about 300. This one is a church conference, mind you. A CHURCH conference. So, although I love and admire the priests and lay people around the table doing the planning, I long for something more profound than:
- ‘We often ask people to bring their own lunch: it saves money.’
- ‘It’s hospitable to offer food.’
- ‘We need to make sure everyone can eat within 45 minutes.’
These are all sensible, practical suggestions, but are they not a little secular? Hospitality is encouraging. Prudence is sensible. Organisation is reassuring. I’d expect to see as much in any conference planning.
But when you gather Christians for a Christian enterprise, that’s not just a conference: that’s church. And with the grace of God, church can do things that other agencies can’t. If we trust; if we use the resources God has set before us.
If we come together without a sense of worship; without a longing for community; without a focus on mission, then God too will be missing from our gathering. We will indeed be secular. If we come together in his name, it will be different.
What questions will free up our thinking? They might be:
- ‘What’s the purpose of the day, and how does it apply to lunch? (mission)
- ‘How do we usually celebrate meals when we gather?’ (worship)
- Who are these people, and how will they want, or need, to be formed? (community)
and in connection with this particular conference:
- What have we gathered to learn about today, and what will be on people’s minds (education)
Summed up: what would it look like, if we had lunch like Christians?
In exploring those questions we might solve our practical questions by identifying the underlying liturgical questions. Not only that, but we might get a lot more out of our conference.
So, at this point in the meeting, I long to suggest that a bring and share lunch might be the greatest way to trust in God. That’s right, the good old church staple, renewed in a totally different setting. Not the only answer, I’m sure, but my response to the moment, in the light of my faith. Recalling the feeding of the 5000, a great crowd assembles with open expectation. They have come to learn; come from their own communities, to be formed elsewhere. But they admit their need of earthly sustenance too, on an earthly scale. So groups of 8-12 gather and present to each other what they have. All receive at once, so it will be easy to bless food and congregation, perhaps reacalling too the Agape feasts of early Christians. Recalling, too, the Eucharist, many share one bread, and draw closer to being one body.
And the adventure! ‘Some’ food would be enough: but you and I know, don’t we, that there will be ‘plenty’. We know, too, that to do this will challenge people who say they’re Christians to act as Christians; to practice their own hospitality and attention to one another, instead of depending on the institution. It will release rather than confine them.
Think liturgically, I want to say, and respond imaginatively. Remember your worship, focus on your mission, call together your community.
I long to say it, but I don’t. I have said a lot already, and I need to not always be the one with the wacky ideas.
And anyway, I can always put it on my blog….