Anne Howard: A Word in Time: Table Grace



A Final Summer Reading Series (introduced here) recommendation:

Donna Schaper's Grace at Table (Wipf and Stock, 2013)

As one who is often asked to "say grace" at dinner, I welcome this fresh take on the topic of table grace.  As Donna Schaper writes, with razor wit, this moment can be anything but graceful. With my extended family, and with friends, most of these gatherings include folks who have no religious tradition. It wouldn't work to launch into the four-part sung version of "Be present at our table Lord" that my father always conducted from his chair at the end of the table. In the tables I frequent these days, some are downright hostile to religion. (But isn't it curious that folks still pause for . . . a toast? a prayer? something. We do want something.)

I have long believed-because I see it-that we human creatures crave ritual to mark the occasions that matter, from weddings to birthdays to retirement to end-of-Little-League-season. One of those rituals is table grace. 

So what do we say for table grace? Whom (capital W) do we address? Sometime along the way, in one of those mixed gatherings, I invented a grace that begins "O Holy One, by whatever name we call you, in whatever way we know you, we give thanks for this gathering, etc. etc." I figure this honors the Source of all blessing, while making room for all at the table.

But I'm always looking for fresh material, and here it comes from Donna Schaper. Her introduction to her wonderful collection of table prayers is just a clue of the treasures in this book:

"At about half the dinner parties I attend, there is an awkward beginning. The glorious food is presented and plattered, tickled and drizzled. It is meant to dazzle and often does. A high percentage of my friends are foodies. In addition to their identity as foodies, they are a great mixture. Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Moslems, and puzzled Protestants, all eat and laugh together while garnished with a sincere respect for pluralism. They imagine their prayer might of- fend a possible atheist or agnostic at the table-and so they refrain from prayer altogether. Maybe they are as afraid of prayer as offending? I don't know. I just know prayer has disappeared from most tables, resulting in awkward beginnings.

If we dinner guests are lucky, the hosts will offer a word of welcome. Even better, the hosts will offer a toast, and glasses will click in a pagan form of prayer. We will drink to our health, or each other, or to life, or to the chef. Every now and then, someone will mumble a prayer in a gesture of appreciation to something larger than the host, or each other, or the farmer who made the food.

I prefer an alternative: a large enough prayer to comprehend all at the table."

Echoes from the Edge

Summer Reading Series

By Nicole Lamarche, 2012-13 Beatitudes Fellow - September 2nd, 2013

Nicole recommends:

Parenting as a Spiritual Journey:  Deepening Ordinary and Extraordinary Events into Sacred Occasions  by Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer

There are lots of days in parenting where it feels miraculous to make it through in one piece!  And yet, it is possible to be intentional about approaching the journey of nurturing children as a spiritual practice. This book is written by a rabbi and mother of two.  I have returned to it on occasion to remind myself how to reframe and reimagine some aspects of family life in order make more space for spiritual depth.  She draws on her own experiences and the stories of more than 100 parents to explore how forgiveness, grace, healing and love can be present in the most mundane of parenting tasks. 

Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes  by Charles Hartshorne

I found my way to this small, but important book during a seminary class on Process Theology.  Some of the language can feel densely theological, but it offers a new lens for God's power and presence in the world.  Hartshorne begins by challenging the concept of God as perfect, a thread he traces to Plato and then launches into the full list of theological mistakes.  What I appreciate the most about this work is the way in which it unsettles some of the most entrenched views about God's nature and essence.  If God isn't perfect or put another way, if God is still being added to, if God is still "learning", then maybe there is hope for all of us!

Nicole Lamarche is founder of the Silicon Valley Progressive Faith Community

Finally, the Poet

Fishing in the Keep of Silence

By Linda Gregg - September 2nd, 2013

There is a hush now while the hills rise up

and God is going to sleep. He trusts the ship

of Heaven to take over and proceed beautifully

as he lies dreaming in the lap of the world.

He knows the owls will guard the sweetness

of the soul in their massive keep of silence,

looking out with eyes open or closed over

the length of Tomales Bay that the egrets

conform to, whitely broad in flight, white

and slim in standing. God, who thinks about

poetry all the time, breathes happily as He

repeats to Himself: there are fish in the net,

lots of fish this time in the net of the heart.

(from All of it Singing, 2008)

Taken with permission from the the Beatitudes Society Blog.