Feasting on Liturgy

When I left the Evangelical church for an Anglican one in college, it was out of proximity rather than theology. I had decided to attend university in France and there were very few English-speaking churches in Paris. As a freshman in college living abroad, I sought the ease of a community that spoke my native language.

While I started attending solely for community, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the rituals and rhythms the Church of England offered. I grew to love passing the peace and weekly communion—taken as a community, not just in my seat. I loved the thoughtful anticipation of Advent, the Galette des Rois for Epiphany, pancakes (or crêpes) for Shrove Tuesday, and the practice Lent leading to Easter. The weekly unchanging liturgy offered comfort in a season of culture shock.

When I moved back to Colorado after those four years abroad, I looked to recreate that magical experience. But something was missing. While I found liturgy at Episcopalian and Catholic services, I had trouble connecting with community. When I would try an Evangelical church, it was easier to connect with community but I missed the liturgy.

As I continued my search, I wondered if I had connected with the actual Liturgical Church or simply a particular community at a particular season that happened to follow the church calendar.

It took some years before I found an Evangelical church that also was interested in liturgy. Seven years later, we’re still attending this liturgical-lite service. Our worship pastor recognizes the value of the ancient church calendar and we observe some of those rhythms but those aren’t the driving force behind sermon planning or our weekly readings.

As we raise our two daughters, my Catholic-turned-Evangelical husband and I thought about small ways to introduce the beauty of the church calendar into our home. We want our girls to recognize that our spiritual lives are cyclical like the seasons, that these practices connect our own stories to a greater historical community. And yet, we want to also embrace and recognize the freedom found in not being tied to just one way of connecting with the Bible and with our history as Christians.

My early liturgical experiences centered around feasting, so that is what we returned to. At this stage in our parenting, our preschooler and toddler may not necessarily sit through a reading or a craft but they will eat dinner. For Saint Nicholas Day, it’s kid’s choice meal before we put our boots by the fireplace, in anticipation of St. Nicholas bringing Christmas jammies and a chocolate coin. For New Year’s we make lentil soup with sausage coins; For Epiphany we make food “from the East” and order a Galette des Rois from the French bakery, hoping to find the Wise Man hidden inside. On Shrove Tuesday before Lent begins, we have breakfast for dinner and are sure to include the pancakes.

Do any of these meals draw us closer to Jesus or teach about specific Biblical stories? Not necessarily. But we’re learning that many rituals start around the table. Our four-year-old is already starting to remember some of these traditions and, as she asks more questions about why we eat cake and light the Jesus candle left over from our Advent wreath in January, conversations about the Wise Men and the story beyond Christmas naturally occur.

In some ways, these homemade feasts remind me of our weekly communion feast. When our daughter started participating in this ritual, she simply went forward for what she called, “The Jesus Bread.” The more we talked, the more connections she made to the symbolism behind this bread broken for her and this wine shed for her.

In centering our own rituals around the table, I’m hoping our girls understand a greater symbolism in our journey as Christians. Gathering around the table isn’t linear and organized—it’s messy and vulnerable and filled with conversations and questions.

Isn’t that what Jesus taught us? Faith is about opening a new conversation and journeying through life with more questions than answers. Observing the liturgical rhythms is a way of using those sacred rituals to continue the conversation.

Annie Rim

Annie Rim lives in Colorado, where she plays with her inquisitive and independent daughters, hikes with her husband, teaches at an art museum, and grapples about life, faith, and community on her blog. You can connect with her on Twitter (@annie_rim) or via her blog: annierim.wordpress.com.

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  • Loved reading about your journey Annie. Our experience has shown us that food can be a great teacher. When we pastored a traditional church, we had a Seder meal every year during holy week. The children didn’t quickly grasp the meaning of the bitter herbs and matzo but they would ask, are we eating boiled eggs and that yucky stuff again? Their faces carried delight, not “eww gross”. We knew even then, we were doing something right. Wish we’d known it when our kids were young.

    • I love that you exposed the kids to this experience! Our neighbors are Jewish and the husband is out of town, so I offered to make a passover meal (I didn’t know it was all week!) It’ll be my first time, and I’m excited! Food is the great equalizer, in so many ways.

  • I love to read the little ways you incorporate liturgy into the warp and woof of your home life. With older kids and divergent schedules, those things are harder to come by, but I’m learning their value as well. Even something as small as lighting candles at dinner helps to sanctify time around the table and bring us into God’s story.

    • Wait… Life doesn’t get easier as they get older?! 😉 I think that’s what I love about focusing on the table…. Even with just the candles, it’s an experience to remember, right?

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Annie, this made me smile….I’m an Evangelical living into some of those liturgical rhythms myself and it’s been a long, slow turning of my mind to see the beauty of rituals and traditions, the ‘comfort’ you mentioned.
    One book that helped me very much is called Circle of Seasons-Meeting God in the Church Year by Kimberlee Ireton. She has four children and incorporates their stories and practices throughout. (and it’s a small book! easy to read. yay).

    • I’m going to check out that book! Sounds beautiful… (And small is definitely good in this season!) Such a balance, isn’t it, of finding comfort in ritual rather than checking out due to that comfort. I guess noticing is the key.

  • Thanks for this article, Annie! I love everything you’re doing and have been on a small journey myself of longing for liturgy. Have you read Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren? It’s a great read. Now off to Google Shrove Tuesday!

    • I’ve seen Liturgy of the Ordinary pop up around social media…. I’ll have to check it out! I think small steps are what make this doable for us. Enjoy the journey!