‘I wish there was space to unpack how much has been lost to church identity by the exclusion of a meal from its normal gatherings, to which 1 Corinthians testifies.’ *
* Messy Church Theology, George Lings, p 160 (BRF, 2013)
Church services in the early church looked nothing like ones today. Sunday was a working day, so they were held before or after work. There were no church buildings so they were held in people’s homes.
At the end of a hard day’s work going to a church service is the last thing on your mind. First of all you need to eat. So, much as Rotary do today, church services then centred around a meal. But while North Berwick Rotarians enjoy the catering of the Marine Hotel, the early church did it themselves. It was a ‘bring and share’ meal. Each person coming brought some food. Not their own packed tea for them to eat in their corner. They brought a bag of rolls, or a bowl of salad, or a block of cheese. Everyone pooled the food they’d bought and shared it.
Worship in the early church had a meal at its heart. They prayed, they sang songs, they read the Bible, they listened to preaching and they discussed what it meant. But rather than doing it sitting in rows, they did it round a table.
There is a move these days to encourage families to eat together more. There is a growing recognition that shared meals are important social occasions. While food has vital nutritional properties it also has social ones too. When people break bread together something happens. The business world has known this for generations, which is why corporate entertainment is both vital and controversial. When people eat together barriers are broken down, relationships are formed and so deals get done.
Our style of worship and the layout of our building mean that worshipping over a meal is not straightforward, so instead we have that as the second part. Just 15 years ago, a minority stayed for a cuppa after the service, now it is the majority. Hunger Lunch happens monthly, as does Messy Church that has a meal at its heart.
This month we are going to try something else. On April 24 (and May 22) we are going to try a new kind of All Age service, with two parts to it. In the first part we will celebrate communion as an all-age community of faith. In the second part, we will enjoy a Bring and Share tea. The service will start at 4.30 pm and finish by 6 pm.
As we worship together and eat together in this new way, God will be at work. He will use it to develop bonds and deepen our fellowship. He will use it to enrich our lives and make Jesus known to others.
To see other messages from Neil, click on the appropriate month in the table below.
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