This is a post by The Abundant Table Farm Project‘s Sarah Nolan and was originally found on chedmyers.org. The Abundant Table and YAC Blog editor Sarah Holst are working jointly to create resources that support an Earth-to-Altar movement to Localize the Liturgy. Sarah Nolan is the Director of Programs and Community Partnerships at the Abundant Table and is the recipient of the Environmental Stewardship Fellowship through the National Episcopal Church. “Localize the Liturgy!” is posted here in a spirit of ecumenism.
Every week, our little house church in Ventura County, CA practices a ritual ceremony, along with millions across the globe, that calls us to touch, taste, smell, see and” re-member” the life and work of a man who equated his body with bread and his blood with wine. Along with these central elements, other powerful symbols such as candles, water, flowers and oils make up these rituals that provide texture and life to the liturgy.
As we participate in liturgy, we are engaging in a cycle of reconnection and re-membrance that draws us closer to God and ourselves, while at the same time pushing us out into the world and towards our neighbor. The ceremonial elements serve as reminders of and guides to this ongoing journey deeper into the divine and into the created cosmos. It is with this journey in mind that we must ask ourselves about what these rituals elements say about our how we relate to the world and, in turn, to God.
Episcopal priest Julie Morris stresses the importance of knowing that the Gifts of Creation” we bring to the altar represent an offering to God. Recently our Abundant Table community decided to expand our understanding of reconciliation with the earth to go beyond sustainable agriculture in order to include reconciling the land and the people that are connected to the bread, wine and other symbols we use in liturgy. This past winter we planted our first small batch of wheat, just to explore what could be possible.
Our journey to “localize the liturgy” is evolving into the Abundant Table’s “Homegrown Communion” or “Ground to Altar” challenge to the entire Episcopal Church and other worshipping communities across the country. We are inviting congregations to find out the origins of the elements they use for their worship: where they came from, how they were made, who was part of the process. Recognizing that the journey plays an important and essential role in the process of transformation, we are then asking those who accept the challenge to send us their stories of what they learned and how they attempted to “localize their liturgy.”
Learning about where the most cherished elements of our religious practices come from is an act of unveiling the brokenness—in the food system, our worship, and our communities—so that we can move towards healing and wholeness, which is the power of the Eucharist. If we have no real connection with the gifts of our offering and elements of our liturgy, not only is there a brokenness in our food system, but a major disconnect in our worship.
You are invited to join us. Grow the ingredients for your communion bread and wine, learning about the land, the labor, the process, the people and the stories that become your gifts of bread and wine. Partnerships with other parishes are encouraged. Consider growing other items such as altar flowers and olives for holy oils. Consider using water from local rivers, streams, lakes or oceans for your baptismal fonts and holy water stoups. Let us know your stories.
Share with us your visions. We want to lament, celebrate and conspire with one another as we continue our journey deeper into the divine and the created cosmos. E-mail your stories about localizing your liturgies to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to our collection!