[cw: Christianity, alcohol]
While our various ceremonial remembrances of the meal may be meaningful in their own right, it’s a shame they aren’t accompanied more often by actual feasts, complete with bread baskets and wine bottles, elbows and spills, cleanup and candle-light, and big fat serving bowls of mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and fresh green beans. For many, such feasts are a stable of their informal church life — those planned or improptu gatherings around Chinese takeout or a backyard grill when the people of God just hang out together — but the dichotomy between the sacred and the secular is a Western construction and one I suspect those first disciples of Jesus would find a bit curious given what we know about those first Sunday meals.
–Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p.129-130
I don’t know if that dichotomy is actually a Western construction (seems so), but, this hits on one of my pet topics.
Because on the one hand… on the one hand, liturgy is very… pretty. It can create a very gripping, somatic experience. I think of church bells, solemn and clamorous, and of the resonant “bowl” I would ring as an acolyte during Eucharist while all else was silent, paying rapt attention to the timing and how to strike, to be loud enough, without being too loud, and pace the blows, letting some ripples of vibration fade before striking anew — and how the sound would fill the space of the sanctuary and it was beautiful. I loved that part of the service, even though I was anxious about it because there were no diversions to cover my mistakes.
But also? Usually? The liturgy can be cold and distancing, and so… lifeless. It’s a facade, and it’s stiff, and it’s the same every time, and that makes it tedious. It can be good for invoking muscle memory and nostalgia and sometimes (sometimes) quiet reverence, but for me, usually, it just feels empty.
And I remember being frustrated even as a, what? a preteen? a young teen? …about this, even then, even though I had a very underdeveloped sense of what was bothering me. I was noticing that people mostly didn’t want to talk Godtalk without being formal and vaguely scripted about it, like it was this far-removed thing to be held at arm’s length, quarantined to designated hours and structured participation, not a natural part of their actual everyday lives. I kept feeling this uncomfortable divide between how people handled themselves during Church Stuff and how they handled themselves when talking about literally anything else. In trying to express my interest in suturing those two worlds together and maybe even collapsing some of the divide, trying to talk to some adults about it, I… didn’t express myself well.
And eventually, I gave up.