Common Eating is an idea for a university of seminary type course that has been sitting in the back of my mind for several years now. Over the next several weeks I hope to go through each of those posts and update and rethink my way through them. I’ll be leaving each new post at the top of my blog for a few days. Any new material will be printed in bold.
I was reading a couple of Twitter comments today involving food and wine that had been posted by @ReverendChef and they got me thinking, what might a seminary course on “common eating.” I’m using the term “common eating” as a play on the ideas of common prayer and common worship that are so much a part of Anglican practice.
One of the ideas that this appeals to me so much is that as a single person, common eating, is not a major part of my life. Yet, eating together is one of the activities that defines our lives together, from the family dinner to gathering around the Lord’s Table for the Eucharistic meal. The focus will be on eating together, so as such, it will not be a course on food justice, but as we reflect on eating together, I intend to structure it in such a way that I hope such issues would naturally result from the discussions the class is having.
This course will also be practical. Seminary is supposed to prepare people for ministry, and it does so, much in the way that mini-golf prepares people to take on the greens at Augusta National. The concept is the same, but the reality is greatly different. This class will involve developing a lived theology, ie we’ll be trying to practice as we learn.
So, every class will begin with a meal. I realize that this might be the biggest hurdle to such a class, but holding it in an off campus location might solve this problem in some situations. This meal would be prepared by the students in teams of 2 or more. This will be a limited budget exercise as well, (I will have to work out the details).
A trip to a soup kitchen to prepare for and eat a meal with its clients might be part of such a class. Inviting a group of strangers in for a meal might also be part of such a class. A Eucharist will be included every week (a willingness to take part in the Eucharistic practices of other traditions will be a requirement for acceptance into the course). Of course, if such a course was taught in a denominational setting, this likely wouldn’t be an issue.
In addition to dealing with material from the Biblical text, the course would possibly include the writings on food and eating by Robert Farrar Capon and Margaret Visser, along with cookbooks such as the “More With Less,” cookbook put out by the Mennonite Central Committee(I did say this was going to be practical).
My bibliography for Eucharistic Eating is ever growing, and would definitely provide a wide range of background reading material for any such course.
Is there enough material in the subject for a thirteen week course? I don’t know, but I suspect there is. Fall suppers, church potlucks and picnics all fit within the parameters of such a class. Scruples in eating (veganism and vegetarianism for example). Example behaviour for a priest/minister when offered tea, etc. on home visitation. Food and drink. Corporate fasting and feasting. These are just a few things, that may benefit from deeper, more focused thought and action.
One of things that I have been thinking about since first righting this post is the inclusive/exclusive nature of dining, particularly as it relates to a church community. How might a parish better use eating together to broaden it’s welcome to the community around it, or conversely how might a use eating together to keep people out of the life of the community.
Over the next three weeks I hope to flesh out these ideas, and if it is feasible, I would like to have a PDF outline finished by that time. As I prepare this, please feel free to leave suggestion in the comments, especially if you have reading suggestions.