Fun Food, and Faith

You might be thinking, ‘Michele, aren’t you missing a comma? Don’t you mean “Fun, Food, and Faith?” But no, I really mean “fun food” and faith. Perhaps the quotes will make it clearer. But first a little history.

You may not know this but, in the beginning of Christianity, worship gatherings included food, dinner to be precise. Have you heard the old joke about the teacher who invited students to bring symbols of their faith to school for “Show and Tell” and the Methodist child brought a casserole dish? There are probably many different versions of that joke, and in truth probably each denomination credits itself with single handedly bringing the “pot luck meal” to Christianity. Truth is, though, so called “pot luck dinners pre-date Christianity, but that is another story.

Jesus, it seems, often enjoyed a good meal and a dinner party. Scour the Gospels for stories of Jesus “at Table” with friends, Pharisees, and all sorts of sinners. You may be surprised at how many meal stories you find.

Through the centuries, Christian Worship became much more formal, so that it would be difficult for many of us who have grown up in mainline denominations to picture dinner as Worship. No room for tables and chairs in most sanctuaries, just pews in rows that do not lend themselves to mealtime conversation, or much conversation at all. So we end up with a view of Christian Worship that is very formal.

That is not all bad, it depends on what you are used to I suppose. I love liturgy, that blend of readings, responses, prayers, songs or hymns. As much as I appreciate liturgy, I have long considered myself “semi-liturgical”. For twenty four years, including retirement, I have served churches that were either in a rural setting or town and country. Small churches often wish they were bigger, but there is a richness and a flexibility in a small congregation that is not possible in a large church.

My personal adventure with food in worship began with the experience of a Love Feast. A Love Feast is a special service of worship that includes food; it is usually held in the sanctuary, but not always. One of the guidelines in the United Methodist Book of Worship is that whatever bread and drink is used for a Love Feast should not be the same as the bread and drink used for Communion. So, once I figured out the logistics of getting napkins, mini-muffins and drinks handed out in worship, I served mini-corn muffins and Kool Aid.

The refreshments sat on the Lord’s Table (Altar) until it was time to serve them. I remember the two rowdiest boys in the church were transfixed, starting at the bounty on the table and eager to partake. I was hooked.

Although I have been an instigator and sometimes the chief cook in those events and the ones following, let me be clear that I could not have made them happen without the approval and assistance of some wonderful church members. When I moved to the next church I figured out that I could get 100 mini-muffins out of my mother-in-law’s pumpkin bread recipe. We generally served water as the drink, because it was simpler.

Photo by Caio from Pexels

When I got braver or bolder, I decided to use candy for a sermon. The sermon title was “m&m’s” and I got small packs of m&m’s to be handed out before the sermon, but asked that folks take them home and not open them in worship. My sermon was about the Mission and Ministry focus of the Church, and my hope was that the flock would consider the candy a “mental hitching post” to their mission.

I think that it did; but something struck another cord for me, as deep as the Mission of the Church when one of the parents said to me, “Pastor Michele, Thanks for breakfast!” I remember what it was like to try to get three little kids dressed, fed and out the door for church. Another thing that connected with the statement about breakfast was the young adults who brought travel mugs of coffee to worship. I didn’t mind, and no one complained to me, at least. It seemed to be an essential thing for them.

Fast forward a few years to a new church. I mentioned this story in a Bible Study and the class really took it to heart. It was not long before the Church ladies were organizing refreshments to be available in worship EVERY WEEK! They set a spread, including juice boxes for the kids, served in a bowl of ice, Goldfish crackers in small cups, and on the “Coffee Bar” in the back of the sanctuary, there was ice water, hot coffee, brewed tea (not hot water and tea bags) and a variety of breads, muffins, or cookies and brownies. Not healthy to be sure, but readily available carbs.

People were invited to take their refreshments to their seats and help themselves at anytime. I would joke that their moving around during the service would not distract me, but I also begged them not to make that a life goal.

I realize this seems unorthodox. I also know that many churches have a regular coffee hour at the end of the service. But our facilities were somewhat limited. There was a small entry way and it was an upstairs sanctuary. If we had said, please join us down stairs after worship for a time of fellowship, we knew most people would not stay and they would lose the opportunity to visit with each other. This unique gift of the church contributed to the spirit of Joy in worship and did much to form community. It was radical hospitality.

The Creation Cake Service

One thing that we have learned over the years, is the need to appeal to different learning styles. Not only in terms of verbal sermon illustrations, but also in the use of visuals. Some concepts need to be seen to be understood.

I remembered reading in a Bible Study manual, that the Early Hebrews’ idea of creation was that the earth rested on pillars that were embedded in “The Deep.” Taking some liberties with an illustration in the book, I thought, cake pedestals would be helpful. So working with a friend and parishioner who actually did cake decorating, we each made the needed cake layers. Then my sermon talking about the wonders of Creation was part preaching, part cake construction.

Boy, I wish we had taken pictures, but no, I ask you to settle for this description. The base of the cake, symbolizing “the deep” was an oblong layer covered in blue/green frosting. I set the cake pedestals into that layer, which supported a regular round 8″ single layer, covered in frosting. I think we might have put some plastic animals or other things on it to show that was the earth. There may have been a yellow frosting covered cupcake to symbolize the sun. One more set of pillars supported the dome (the sky) which was baked in an oven proof bowl.

There had to be 2 separate cakes, because it would have been rude to say, “Look at this, do you get it? Okay, taking this to the next church!” So, at the end of each service, folks were invited to the fellowship hall for coffee, tea and cake.

The Wedding Feast at Cana

By the time we got to the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2) I was working with an amazing creative team. There is more here than I could have made happen. We had the idea to have a real wedding cake and reception following worship. The table had space underneath to set up a display, which you see below, with a real wedding veil, a silk bouquet, a ring bearer’s pillow and a bulletin from a wedding. The celebration was made that much richer because it was a Communion Sunday. I loved the picture showing the combination of Elements for Communion on top of the table, and the wedding decorations under the table.

No photo description available.
Celebrating the Wedding Feast at Cana (Blossburg UMC February 2016)

This time, the cake was not in the sanctuary, but the main meal was on the Table. After the service, folks were invited downstairs for cake and coffee. See the picture(s) below.

No photo description available.
Wedding Cake by Kathi Hemenway

One of the things that made this extra special was the use of memorabilia lent by parishioners from their weddings. Peeping out from behind the cake are some delicately crafted white wooden roses. People gave and celebrated from their hearts.

No photo description available.

The Pie-Chart Sermon/Service

Pie charts are certainly visual and used to explain a variety of things, so why not use real pie for a teachable, taste-able moment? I could not find a “free to use” picture of a slice of lemon meringue pie, but the pie I saw in a local restaurant was the inspiration for this sermon and service.

Briefly, my premise was that all the stories in the Bible contain three important layers: what was happening at the time of the story, what was happening years later when the story was written down, and what it means to us when we read or hear the story.

Not to belabor the point, but the stories were traditioned to us years after the occurrences described. Just as artists who paint cannot help but put something of themselves in the paintings, so life at the time of the actual writing was going to be influenced by what was happening in the church when the writing took place.

My experience as a pastor/teacher is that most people want to know what the story has to do with them, “life application.” But there is more to the stories in the Bible than that. So, planning ahead, each parishioner was able to choose what they wanted for pie, lemon meringue, coconut cream pie or chocolate cream. This sermon had to be served up in the dining room. Napkins and forks were on the table.

I was a tyrant, they had to wade into the sermon, before they could wade into the pie. Few people, I reasoned, would order lemon meringue pie, and just eat the meringue. All three layers are meant to be tasted and savored.

In this instance, the crust was “What was happening at the time of the event.” The filling was “What was happening at the time the story was actually written down,.” and the Meringue or whipped topping was the “Life application layer.”

I remember a special education teacher many years ago who commented on the number of different ways he knew to teach a concept. I appreciate that. As a Pastor/Teacher, I want to use every tool in my belt to help people connect with God, even if they seem a bit unconventional. Taking the Psalmist’s words to heart, “Taste and See that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8 NRSV)

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

Shared with Esme Senior Salon #151 and Natalie the Explorer’s Weekend Coffee Share

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

32 thoughts on “Fun Food, and Faith

  1. Wow you’ve certainly taken food and faith to a new level Michele. I’ve been to many shared church lunches over the years and we have coffee and biscuits (cookies) after our morning service each week. Our previous church used to have a morning tea roster and whoever was on would bring something homebaked – delicious! I’ve also participated in a few “Passover meals” where the church comes together to eat what would have been eaten for the Passover – interesting and quite eye opening in how different our Western culture is to the Jewish culture.

    Like

  2. There is a relatively new movement called “Dinner Church” where leaders are doing modified services with meals and conversation. I havent participated, but I am glad to see that come around. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    Like

  3. Good morning, Michele, Fun Food and Faith was such a joy to read and an encouragement!  (Personally, I do not think there should have been a comma after Food in the title.  Am I actually telling you that?) I remember when we were attending Covington, we had worship service in the fellowship hall with a meal and communion.  God has definitely gifted you!     We had a Love Feast at Middle Ridge with water and individually wrapped blueberry muffins (I didn’t bake fresh ones like you). Worship which includes something hands on be food or a little token to take home brings the message to life.   Once I gave everyone clay (it would not dry out) for folks to touch everyday to remember that we are the potter, He is the Clay….are we allowing ourselves to be molded by the Christ. Thanks for staying so close in touch with me.  A personal visit isn’t necessary….not worth what you have to do to visit for 15 minutes.   Rev. Paul sent me a text again last night.    The DOH called me yesterday—I am technically no longer contagious to them….but am I.   It makes me think about the lepers——having to yell unclean.  At least I can have my care time in my room. Love you with the love of the Lord, Jane

    Like

  4. Ha! The title of your post reminded me of the book Eats Shoots, and Leaves. My mom was an English teacher, so I appreciate grammar humor! 🙂

    I love the idea of sharing food as a means of sharing faith. Our church used to have weekly breakfasts during Lent. My kids loved it. Lots of rolls and sweets for breakfast, then off to school. I pity the poor teachers having to deal with kids jazzed up by all that sugar. I have written before about the Moravian Love Feasts at the Moravian church in our town. They are so popular you need to get (free) tickets far in advance of the Christmastime services.

    I love the creativity you use when strategizing a way to connect with your parishioners. After this pandemic, I am going to come up to one of your services. Maybe it will include food! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would love to read that book. I almost bought it a few years ago and got distracted and didn’t do it. On the other hand, I probably have no business buying new books. My book cases are practically groaning. I had wanted to link your post about the Love Feast that you had written the other week, because it was such a good explanation, but I wasn’t sure how to do it and knew I would need to ask you first. As it turned out this was my longest post to date and I had to do a lot of editing to get it below 1800 words (from 2000! Yikes) and still tell the stories I wanted to tell. Our Drive In Love Feast went fairly well, I think. I schemed to avoid bringing leftovers home and put 2 pieces of wrapped Moravian Cake into each gift bag. I reasoned if I told them there was extra they could have, I’d be stuck with leftovers that are not good for my sugar problem. So I didn’t ask, I just gave (lol). Thank you for the compliments. I was on a roll a few weeks ago, but that last three Mondays have not been able to get caught up in reading or writing to do any link parties. Sometiems I write an entire post in a day, edits, and pictures, etc. and other times, like with “Fun Food” I spend several days or spread it out over a few weeks. Then there was Ash Wednesday last week and a funeral today. I pushed to finish and publish last night, Just “for me” but will soon turn my thoughts to Sunday. I think, even though it is Tuesday night I will send this over to Seni-Sal and Hope I can come up with another post by next Monday or find something to recycle for the next Coffee Share. I would love it if COVID would go aoway and you could come to a service. I am serious about coming to Lewisburg in November to cheer you on if you do that race, it’s only an hour from here. Well enough chatter from me, thank you so much and blessings, Michele

      Like

      1. Here is a tid-bit I edited out of the post b ut you might get a kick out of. I once ended a summer session of evening prayer time with, seriously, angel food cake, heavenly hash ice cream and crystal light! Go figure!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha! I love your inspired use of cake and ice cream for your evening prayer. Good idea giving the Moravian sugar cake away. I do the same thing – don’t give people the chance to decline it! 🙂 I can’t even imagine doing the preparation you must do each week for your sermons AND writing a blog. Whew! It makes me want to take a nap just thinking about it!

    Like

  6. Michele, Food brings people together. Good for you to be creative and get the community involved. Also important to make what you teach relevant to people, especially adults. You’ve got this. Thank you for linking with #WeekendCoffeeShare.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Michelle and YES and AMEN to your post.

    I’m from the Assemblies of God and I know we get too wound up sometimes for Methodist sensibilities, but I’ve calmed down some for getting older and for having moved to a county without a compatible A of G church, so have been blessed by the much quieter congregation we attend which is much more Baptist-like.
    It’s been profitable for both them and us – but that too is another story.

    In Bible college, I developed a church ministry metric of sorts that I used to help me understand the health of various churches I worked with (including one downtown Methodist body in Seattle Wash, I was the kids summer program director) but the formula worked both for church bodies and individual self appraisals.

    I posited that a healthy Christian or Christian body would express a balance of 4 attributes: ongoing worship, ongoing discipleship, ongoing fellowship and ongoing evangelism. From that starting point, if I could show that I’m active and progressing in each area, I would likely be pretty close to the will of God and if I lacked in one or more, that gap would be a clear weakness that should be addressed.

    I particularly liked the notion that “fellowship” was as valuable to God as any degree of good liturgical worship. Thus breaking bread together became as important as all the other things Christ would have us do for our own good. I’m almost sorry you brought this all up as I need to revisit this and likely make a few changes yet again.

    But staying on the path is part of the journey and missteps are to be expected when dealing with such vessels of clay.

    Hey, I really – really hope you find time to check out my newer story, Ribbons and Remembrances. As I folded this story together, I could not help but wonder who might enjoy it and your name came to mind. I hope I’m not mistaken but I really would love to hear how this story works for you. It’s about a 13 minute read and I’ll bet you will see the faces of those who this story reminds you of and may even be moved to once again lift their name before our savior.

    To increase the chances of you checking it out, here’s a handy link:
    https://garyawilsonstories.wordpress.com/ribbons-and-remembrances/

    I’m so glad you stopped by and posted such a great weekend coffee share essay.
    Blessings

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gary, thanks very much for your comment on my poast and sharing some reflections on church and the Christian life. Although IW as raised RC, I was a young adult during the Charismatic Renewal that also hit the RCC, so never a member of an AG church but some familiarity. I went from RC to Episcopal to United Methodist. . I will read the story soon, I like participating in the Weekend Coffee share, but since i am still serving part time, it coincides with sermon prep, etc. and I am gone Sunday morning into afternoon. Still, enjoying the connections with so many “new to me” bloggers. I’ll get back to you when I get a chance to read it. Blessings, Michele

      Like

  8. As a Singaporean growing up in a foodcentric family, I think about food all the time – not necessarily about consuming it (although I do enjoy that tremendously) but the preparation, making, memory of it.

    I enjoyed your post very much – the idea of using something so basic and yet dear to us to illustrate & illuminate profound truths is brilliant. Thank you for sharing some of it with us,

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pleasure is all mine. You used a language (food) and images (more food) that I easily identify with, so it was very enjoyable.

        Like

  9. When I was growing up, food and drink in the church, other than communion, was frowned upon. But I didn’t really understand why. Now days, when I go to church (pre covid) I would take my coffee and my knitting. I focus better if I have something to do. I considered it one hour per week for just me. The church I was attending got on board (not because of me) with having coffee for the parishioners. I love that you have been so instrumental in bringing food into the worship service.

    Like

  10. Hi Michele, I like your title, especially without the comma. Interesting about the history of pot luck dinners. Up until now, I thought it was a newer concept. Also, interesting about the Love Feast and the logistics. The “m&m’s” sermon made me smile. Your segues with day to day life and your messages likely strike a chord with many people. And how you ‘get it’ with families getting reading to head out the door. The church ladies putting together a spread warms my heart. Michele, you are the whole package, a teacher, a comedian, creative, wise, caring and very relatable. Also a great point “life application.”

    I come away learning a great deal from your posts, Michele. I always leave with a smile.❤️ Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Erica/Erika. You are so kind and I appreciate your comments. Do you remember Erma Bombeck? While I do not mean to compare myself to her, you may not be surprised to learn that she is one of my favorite writers. Hope all is well, looking forward to reading your post, but I did not want to forget to stop and say thank you. Best and blessings, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: