08 March 2006

Come to My Dinner Party...and Take the First Bite

It would be rude, my Kenyan priest friend tells me, to invite someone over to your house and not take a bite before your guests do. It comes from a tradition suspicious of poison, he tells me. The host eating first indicates it is safe and good to eat. What kind of message would it send, he asked laughing, if I served you food and then didn't take a bite to show you it was good? This cultural etiquette was behind his shock that the priest in our seminary chapel doesn't always take the communion first before serving it to the congregation.

From my view, the priest that does serve herself first is suspect. It smacks of clericalism. Wait, watch me while I eat this. I did this important thing; and now I will eat this important thing.

I'm going to take the cynical view that everything you do in Episcopal worship is going to piss someone off. Hold on, there. Am I projecting? :)

7 Comments:

Blogger Marshall said...

No. On the other hand, like all things liturgical, it needs to be thought out. In my hospital chapel I take the host and the cup last. I choose to take the risk of the communicable disease.

When I'm in the parish I take first. First, it's in the rubrics, and I choose not to violate them without reason. Second, it tends to meet the expectations of the congregation, and since I'm usually there as a supply priest I'm interested in interfering as little as possible with their normal patterns of worship. Finally, there is the practical matter that in many churches architecture means people take a while to come to the rail or to the station. Granted, that's not grandly theological; but ignoring it also disrupts people's sense of worship.

Now, everything is going to piss someone off. You just have to choose why and when to take those steps.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

The rubrics say "The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately deliver it to the people." Since we believe in the ministry of all the baptized one could legitimately give it to those who are not "ordained ministers" -- first. Or as we often do - the ministry team shares the Sacrament with each other and the choir and then to those who are coming from the pews. But so true - someone will always be angry - that is the first rule of our loving community. LOL

8:22 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Like Marshall, I take communion first when I serve - because that is the local practice at St. Martin's.

What would be just as clerical, if not moreso, to tromp in and say "We do it my way now. I take communon last."

Clericalism, in a practical sense, has to do with how you respond to the people whom you serve.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Ann's point can get interesting, and with Preston I see some sense of local consistency.

A large parish (with always a large altar party) with which I have sometimes been associated had almost a different practice according to who celebrated. One priest distributed to the entire altar party, first bread and then wine. One associate distributed bread to the clergy, and then wine to the clergy, and then handed out the other paten and both chalices to others for the rest of the party. A retired bishop would receive, and then back away for the other clergy to serve themselves.

The first time I experienced this last it seemed interesting, an acknowledgement of our collegiality. However, there were days and seasons when I wanted to think of a bishop as my pastor, and the apparent collegiality wasn't as attractive.

6:45 PM  
Blogger Zinnhead said...

all of you, all of you ----
the wisdom runs deep.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Debbie of Boise said...

I say amen to all you who posted here. Thoughtful intelligent conversation. Context is everything. In the Kenyan context, the right, proper and compassionate thing is for the presider to take communion first, to show the people the heavenly food is good, not poison here. That's been their customs for millennia. So sad though, there is a need for that arising out of their troubled history. May there come a time with that innate mistrust is healed in Kenya.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Debbie of Boise said...

I say amen to all you who posted here. Thoughtful intelligent conversation. Context is everything. In the Kenyan context, the right, proper and compassionate thing is for the presider to take communion first, to show the people the heavenly food is good, not poison here. That's been their customs for millennia. So sad though, there is a need for that arising out of their troubled history. May there come a time with that innate mistrust is healed in Kenya.

5:37 AM  

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