Meal From Below

A Eucharistic Approach To Spiritual Formation

  1. Purpose
  2. Target Group
  3. History
  4. Basic Assumptions
  5. Transformation
  6. The Five Course Feast
  7. Liturgical Structure of the Meal
  8. Meal from Below Calendar for 2012-2013
  9. The Menu: A la Carte or Full Course Meal
  10. Online Format
  11. Discerning If This Is A Good Fit
  12. Reading List
  13. How To Begin
  14. Fees

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I. Purpose: Meal From Below is a forty-week spiritual formation experience with daily, weekly and monthly practices. It is patterned after communion at the Lord’s Table or what is known in more liturgical traditions as the Eucharist, which literally mean “good gift.” 

We are told that on the night Jesus was betrayed he took the bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, "This is my body broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, we are taken, blessed, broken, given and spoken in God's love that we might re-member the body of Christ for a hurting world. Welcome to the Jesus meal.

 

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II. Target Group: Meal From Below is well suited for activists and missional communities who are in search of an ecumenical, holistic and liberating spirituality that sustains them in their call to serve the urban poor in hard places. It is also for those who may not be actively serving among the urban poor, but who are hungry for a spirituality that liberates in the hard and forgotten places of their own lives.

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III. History:

Meal From Below was developed by Street Psalms Community in 2011. We were looking for a way of doing spiritual formation according to our particular call and charism – i.e. gift. The Meal From Below experience grew out of our hunger to be grounded more deeply in what we have been learning and practicing together as a community for many years.   

We acknowledge that some of the language and imagery we use may be new to some participants. Those who have not experienced our Street Psalms intensives or journeyed with us may find our language and method challenging and even a little disorienting at times. Some of this is a necessary part of the spiritual formation process. We have reworked the material to be more inclusive and tried to eliminate insider language that would alienate or exclude participants who are new to us. We hope this version of the Meal From Below experience is a helpful guide to those who hunger and thirst for God’s love in hard places.

 

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IV. Basic Assumptions: The Meal From Below experience rests on a bold and liberating assumption, that there is a Eucharistic shape to life – that the Eucharist inducts us into reality and reveals its hidden pattern at work in our lives. This is true not only for the Christians but for all people everywhere. Celebrating Holy Communion may be particular to the Christian tradition, but it is not a religious rite that separates us from the rest of the world – quite the contrary. Our participation in Communion unites us with the world, particularly those people and places in the world with whom we are most estranged. 

The Lord’s Table is a radically inclusive table that not only makes room for the “least of these,” it gives them preferred seating. These are the ones who remind us that the Eucharist is not the property of Christians as it is sometimes portrayed. It is the sign of God’s peace with and for all.

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V. Transformation:

The Meal From Below is about the process of transformation and it reveals two fundamental truths about how transformation works. Transformation in its truest sense always happens in the context of life’s most primal or basic temptations as well as our deepest wounds. In the Jesus meal we come face to face with these two realities.

  • Temptation: The Jesus meal empowers us to address life’s primal temptations. Jesus faced these temptations in the desert and throughout his life – the temptations of bread, temple and crown (Matt 4:1-11). Bread represents the temptation of scarcity. In the Jesus meal we come to know the economics of God’s abundance. Temple represents the temptation of sacred violence. In the Jesus meal we come to know God’s religion of peace. Crown represents the temptation of domination, coercive power and personal gain. In the Jesus meal we come to know the politics of God’s kingdom of peace, or the shalom kingdom, for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. 
  • Wounds: The Jesus meal empowers us to be transformed through our wounds. Our wounds are the wombs of transformation if we let them. Unfortunately, pain, which is the widest gateway to transformation, is the very thing mainstream culture (North America) and mainstream religion (catholic and protestant) often systematically denies. Religion that does not deal with pain is not only empty and without authority, it is dangerous and ironically sows seeds that someday bear the bitter fruit of violence. There are four wounds in particular that the Meal From Below experience tries to honor. The following wounds and corresponding charims mark the Street Psalms Community deeply. We hope our readers will identify with our wounds and join us as we seek the healing gifts that the Jesus meal so generously gives.
The Wound       Charism     
The wound of blindness   charism of sight
The wound of voicelessness     charism of voice
The wound of despair charism of joy
The wound of isolation charism of community

                                                                      

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VI. The Five Course Feast: Here is a brief outline of each course of the meal. 

  • First Course: Taken - In this course of the meal we feast on God’s love as the foundation of all life and transformation. 
  • Second Course: Blessed - In this course of the meal we drink deeply of the Incarnation and life of Christ as the blessing of God’s presence. 
  • Third Course: Broken - In this course of the meal we taste God’s own experience of suffering on the Cross.
  • Fourth Course: Given - In this course we savor life inside of the resurrection and its gift to the world. 
  • Fifth Course: Spoken: - In this course of the meal we digest the living Word that speaks all of life into existence.

 

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VII. Liturgical Structure of the Meal:

Liturgy means public work of the people. Liturgy is the way we make our faith public. In a sense our lives are living liturgies. We have adopted a liturgical structure to help us make the meal accessible to sisters and brothers from a wide variety of denominational traditions.

Revised Common Lectionary: We make use of the Revised Common Lectionary for weekly bible readings that inform the meal. We use the online lectionary of Vanderbilt Divinity Library (here).

Church Calendar: The Meal From Below experience coincides with the liturgical calendar, especially during Advent, Lent and Easter. For those who are new to the liturgical calendar we offer this simple graphic.



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XIV. Meal From Below Calendar for 2012-2013

Here is one suggested plan for using the 2012-13 Calendar, including the traditional liturgical label.

Date
Week
Liturgical Calendar
Activity
Sept. 28-29     Opening Retreat

TAKEN
     
Oct. 07 Week 1 Ordinary Time  
Oct. 14 Week 2 Ordinary Time  
Oct. 21 Week 3 Ordinary Time  
Oct. 28 Week 4 Ordinary Time Small Group
Nov. 4 Week 5 Ordinary Time  
Nov. 11 Week 6 Ordinary Time  
Nov. 18 Week 7 Ordinary Time  
Nov. 25 Week 8 Ordinary Time Small Group

BLESSED
     
Dec. 2 Week 1 Advent  
Dec. 9 Week 2 Advent  
Dec. 16 Week 3 Advent Small Group
Dec. 23 Week 4 Advent  
Dec. 25   Christmas  
Dec. 30 Week 5 Christmas Celebration  
Jan. 6 Week 6 Epiphany  
Jan. 13 Week 7 Baptism  
Jan. 20 Week 8 Ordinary Time Small Group
Jan. 27 Week 9 Ordinary Time  
Feb. 03 Week 10 Ordinary Time  

BROKEN
     
Feb. 10 Week 1 Transfiguration  
Feb. 13
Ash Wednesday  
Feb. 15-16   Silent Retreat
Feb. 17 Week 2 Lent Small Group
Feb. 24 Week 3 Lent Small Group
March 3 Week 4 Lent Small Group
March 10 Week 5 Lent Small Group
March 17 Week 6 Lent Small Group
March 24 Week 7 Lent Small Group
March 28   Maundy Thursday  
March 29   Good Friday  
March 30   Holy Saturday  

GIVEN
 



March 31
Week 1  Resurrection Sunday   
April 7 Week 2 Easter Celebration  
April 14 Week 3 Easter Celebration  
April 21 Week 4 Easter Celebration Small Group
April 28 Week 5 Easter Celebration  
May 05 Week 6 Easter Celebration  
May 12 Week 7 Easter Celebration  
May 19 Week 8 Pentecost Small Group
May 26 Week 9 Trinity  

SPOKEN
     
June 2 Week 1 Ordinary Time  
June 9 Week 2 Ordinary Time Small Group
June 16 Week 3 Ordinary Time  
June 23 Week 4 Ordinary Time  
June 30 Week 5 Ordinary Time  
July 7 Week 6 Ordinary Time Celebration

 

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VIII. The Menu: A La Carte or Full Course Meal:

The following menu items show the daily, weekly, monthly practices as well as additional menu items that are part of the Meal From Below experience. Participants are encouraged to enjoy the meal as a whole but each item can be enjoyed separately depending on your appetite and availability. We also encourage each participant to share the experience with a cohort of friends, as the Jesus meal is a community feast that should not be eaten alone. 

Daily Practices:

  • Praying The Examen: As part of our daily prayer, we have adapted and contextualized St. Ignatius’ form of prayer called the Examen. We have come to trust this form of prayer. It is especially suited for activists. We employ the pattern of discernment revealed in it. It is a very practical form of prayer that takes about 15 minutes a day. For a copy of the prayer click here.

Weekly Practices:

  • Meal From Below Reflections: Each week on Monday morning we send out a short reflection. These reflections provide food for thought and an invitation to action and discernment. Participants can sign up for these here.

Monthly Practices:

  • Small Group Conversation: We encourage each participant to meet with a local cohort for reflection and a meal each month (breakfast or dinner). Some groups have chosen to host these gatherings at a fixed location, others have turned these into “a moveable feast” hosted in different locations throughout the city that connect participants to the hurt, hope and heart of the communities in which they live. Generally, these gatherings are facilitated by leaders who have undergone the 40 week experience and who are in the care of a spiritual director. We invite facilitators to take advantage of ongoing training and support of the Street Psalms Community or a faith community who “gets” this stuff. 
  • Special Lenten Discussion: During the season of Lent we encourage local cohorts to meet weekly for reflection and prayer. Lent is a particularly important season in the Meal From Below that is best experienced in community.  
  • Spiritual Direction: Each facilitator is encouraged to be in the care of a spiritual director. Some participants may also want to meet monthly with a spiritual director. Remember, a good spiritual director does not “direct" — rather, they companion the participant and help them listen deeply and identify the move of the Spirit in their lives. Spiritual directors are like midwives who help others give birth to the holy. It is not necessary for the spiritual director to be familiar with the Meal From Below. In fact, it might be best if they are not, but it is critical that participants find a spiritual director who can be supportive of our approach to spiritual formation.   

Additional Menu Items

  • Retreats: We encourage each participant to do a retreat on the front end of the experience and in the middle of the experience. The opening retreat is designed to give an introduction to Meal From Below and our methods. The silent retreat (usually right before Lent) can take many forms – from day trips to overnights to more structured retreats at a retreat center or monastery, whatever works for you. The silent retreats can be done individually or as a cohort. The key is to un-plug and listen. Retreats are coordinated through the group facilitator.
  • Prayer Walks: We encourage each participant to literally keep their feet on the ground throughout the experience and prayerfully walk the streets of the city or neighborhood, letting the context give shape to their soul. Ideas concerning prayer walks, coming soon. 
  • Local Vision Trip: We encourage each participant to spend a day on a local vision trip to map the hurt, hope and heart of their own community. These can be arranged through the group facilitator. For more information on vision trips coming soon. 

 

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XI. Online Format

We use a web platform to make the weekly reflections more accessible to our network. Weekly reflections will be sent to your inbox each Monday morning. Participants will also find an online resource library of prayers, liturgies and lectionary readings and other resources which are integrated into the Meal From Below experience. For additional resources, click here.

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IX. Discerning If This Is A Good Fit: Because the Meal From Below may not be the right fit for everybody, we offer some suggested guidelines to help potential participants discern if this is an appropriate tool.

Guidelines for Participants: The experience is designed for participants who are community activists who want to make a difference and who come to the meal with the following:

  • A deep hunger for the mystery of life.
  • Relationships with the people at the margins. 
  • Significant failure personally and professionally. 
  • Familiar with the theological perspectives of Street Psalms Community.
  • Willingness to dine in the context of community – in a small group.
  • Willingness to address wounds.
  • A deep desire for healing and liberation.
  • A willingness to come to the table as a guest.

 

Guidelines for Facilitators: Facilitators are not “teachers.” If they are anything they are “hosts” or better yet, “co-hosts” of the Meal From Below.  Generally, they are people who have participated in the Meal From Below and are recognized by the Street Psalms Community and their local faith community as leaders who have the charism of hosting the experience with and for others. 

  • Has participated in Meal From Below.
  • Desires and Demonstrates the “charism” to facilitate Meal From Below.
  • Currently in spiritual direction.
  • Familiar with theological/spiritual foundations of Street Psalms.
  • Participates in monthly facilitator’s conversations.  
  • Able to recruit and coordinate a cohort who desires MFB. 

 

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X. Reading List: The following list is a small sampling of books that we recommend participants and facilitators are familiar with as they engage Meal From Below. Since the Meal From Below experience is not primarily a time of “teaching,” these texts are designed to inform the experience without becoming the main focus.

 

Essential Reading List:

-  Meal From Below: A Five Course Feast With Jesus. Kris Rocke and Scott Dewey.
-  Geography of Grace – Doing Theology From Below. Kris Rocke & Joel Van Dyke.
 

Extra Reading List:

-  Radical Gratitude. Mary Jo Leddy.
-  Everything Belongs – The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. Rohr.
-  Spirituality of Imperfection – Storytelling and the Search for Meaning by Kurtz and Ketcham.
-  Enneagram – A Christian Perspective Rohr and Ebert.
-  Discovering Girard - Michael Kirwin
-  Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World.  Henri Nouwen 
-  The Meal Jesus Gave Us:  Understanding Holy Communion. Tom Wright 

 

 

Articles:

-  Skin of the City. Scott Dewey, Seeing from Below.
-  Prayer – A Case Study in Mimetic Anthropology. James Alison.

 

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XI. How To Begin 

  • Register: Click here to sign up for the weekly reflections and login for more materials and resources.
  • Purchase Books: Click here to purchase Geography of Grace – Doing Theology From Below and click here for Meal From Below - An Introduction To Spiritual Formation.

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XII. Fees. There are no fees to participate though we suggest a donation of $15 a month over the course of the 40 week experience. This helps us produce the Meal From Below material, and support and equip facilitators. All donations are made payable to:

Street Psalms
1121 Tacoma Avenue South
Tacoma WA. 98402

Online donations can be made here.

 

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