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Introduction, Session 11: Bless This Meal

In "Creating Home," a Tapestry of Faith program

Once the guest has eaten and drunk at your table, the guest becomes kin... beggar or enemy, friend or chief, if they knock on your door, it will open; if they seek your shelter, it will be given, and if they ask for hospitality, give them your bread and wine... for who knows when you may need the help of a fellow human? — Keri Hulme

Poet and writer Keri Hulme was born and lives in New Zealand . Her writing is heavily influenced by Maori culture, which is part of her personal heritage.

Many cultures consider the sharing of a meal to be an important step that transforms strangers into friends and sometimes into family. Think of all the preparation that goes into wedding rehearsal dinners! Starting a new family almost always involves food, and food will continue to be important in the life of the family. Bonding over food seems to be deeply natural. After all, sharing food-gathering resources is almost certainly one of the reasons animals gather in families.

Food is important to us. It is life sustaining at the most basic level. Yet we have not necessarily kept it basic. Think of the elaborate preparation that goes into special or holiday meals. Look at the ritualization of eating found in many cultures — from Shabbat meals and Passover seders to Thanksgiving dinners and Japanese tea ceremonies, from religious fasting and breaking a fast together, to church potlucks. The significance of sharing a meal is universal.

Often at such a meal, a grace is said. A grace provides an opportunity to acknowledge the value of the food itself, and perhaps the company or the occasion for the meal, lifting the experience from the gastronomical to the spiritual. Even families that do not say grace at every meal will sometimes feel moved to do so at special occasions.

However, many Unitarian Universalist families, out of a desire to establish rituals of their faith at home, are saying grace at regular mealtimes. Some families actively work toward dedicating more time to simple family activities, like shared meals, to counteract the hustle and bustle of the world around us. Sharing a meal and our thoughts about the day can be a ritual that helps to hold a family together.

Some children may belong to families where saying grace is a spiritual practice well established. For others, saying grace will be new, or something parents prefer not to do at home. How do your religious education program and your congregation handle saying grace or blessings over food?

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Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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