Saturday, 24 September 2011

Contemplative bread making

Here is the script (liturgy) for a contemplative bread making session. Upload it here. This is a slight modification of the one that I used for some contemplative bread making that took place at Holland House, Cropthorne, Worcestershire on the 21st September 2011. To the left you can see a picture of this session – this was near the end when we were shaping our loaves.

Please feel free to use the liturgy yourselves – although you will need to adapt it – and I would really appreciate anyone’s views on how to improve it. It is probably too wordy. I’ve also included instructions for the equipment you’ll need and some (but not many) ‘stage directions’. Finally, at the end, there is a list of biblical verses about bread to read at some point and a recipe ‘card’.

I think that for contemplative bread making sessions you should use flour that has come from locally grown and locally milled wheat as it was at Cropthorne. In Oxford I use Dove’s Farm organic flour to the same recipe. Ideally the flour should be organic or at least produced to some other agreed standard for environmental sustainability such as LEAF. I think you should know – as far as possible – where the salt and yeast have come from. Fresh yeast is best to my mind because it is smellier than dried yeast. I think that is perhaps important that the yeast smells of putrefaction (see Mark 8: 11-21)

I’ve run one of these contemplative bread making sessions twice now and my main reason for doing so is to help people connect with food, where it comes from, and its symbolic meaning.

Bread of course is central to Christian worship but we normally eat it at the Communion Service, Eucharist, Mass, etc without any regard to where it comes from. The exception is where we say this prayer at the preparing of the table:
Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,
for through your goodness we have received
the bread we offer you:
fruit of the earth and work of human hands,
it will become for us the bread of life.
Making the bread as part of Communion is really just to lengthen this prayer. Hence the liturgy is designed to make us think more about ‘fruit of the earth and work of human hands’ and this is why there is some rather technical material about tractors, petrol, stainless steel salt pans, etc. I am loath to leave this out. But this material is also combined with making use of the ingredients of bread and the processes involved in its production as symbol that these might ‘become for us the bread of life’.

Of course you probably couldn’t make bread as part of a Communion Service on a routine basis! For the two contemplative bread making sessions I have run one had eight participants and one had 15 so not a whole church(?) And if you worry about crumbs at a Communion Service then you’ll worry even more about the mess of making bread. (There’s a bit of a theological question here: ‘At what point does the dough become bread?’)

Moreover bread making takes quite long with lots of waiting around. It takes longer than a regular service. One of the contemplative bread making sessions I have run took a morning and then there wasn’t time to bless, break, share and eat the bread slowly – as one would at normal Communion Service although we did eat one of the loaves with local butter and honey. The other took a day and there was. On that occasion we piled up all the loaves we had made before the table and the priest used one for a ‘traditional’ Eucharistic ceremony. (The liturgy for this I haven’t included).

Please do let me know what you think, particularly if you ever try this yourself.

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