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.

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