“I want us to laugh, talk and study together, but do it in a public setting so that people who might not otherwise be comfortable in a more formalized setting, like the church, would feel welcome.”
What is Prayer Books and Potables?
My friend Lindsay and I were in a new Richmond Virginia restaurant for lunch recently. “Are you still traveling a lot with work?” I asked her. “I am,” she said, “but not tonight. It’s Prayer Books and Potables night.”
“WHAT in the world is that?” I asked. “It’s a great new adult group at our church”, she said. “We study the Prayer Book, eat in a restaurant and have a great time.”
And that pretty much sums up the recipe for this amazing new class at Immanuel Episcopal Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia. The ingredients are simple: food, drink, conversation, hospitality and learning in a casual restaurant setting. The Rev. Anne Lane Witt, the Rector at Immanuel wanted an adult formation opportunity that combined these elements AND was out in their local community not within the walls of the church.
“Prayer Books and Potables” is the result. It is a monthly gathering of adults of all ages – some in her church and some not connected to any church – who share a meal and study a particular topic in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. “My first aim was to get out in public with the Prayer Book,” she said. “I want us to laugh, talk and study together, but do it in a public setting so that people who might not otherwise be comfortable in a more formalized setting, like the church, would feel welcome.”
Her second aim was to give people an opportunity to know her – an Episcopal priest – in a casual setting. “I want them to know me, my humanity, “she said, “not just me the priest, but me. I want my parishioners to know me; I want this community to know me.”
What are the keys to planning this program? She named them:
A standing monthly date, the third Wednesday of the month for example. This allows people to put it on their calendars in advance and count on it.
She picks a local casual restaurant that is reasonably priced. People pay for their own food and drink. You may order whatever type of drink you like. Some have wine or a beer; many have water or iced tea.
She picks a topic from the Episcopal Prayer Book for each session. One was the Daily Offices. Last month was the Eucharistic Prayers. She announces the topic ahead of time.
She invites people to bring their Prayer Book if they have one, but it isn’t necessary. People share, she brings a few extra…it all works out!
Near the end of the meal she introduces the topic and does some teaching about it. It’s an inter-active method of teaching, lots of give and take, questions and wondering, getting comfortable with the Prayer Book and asking questions about the church and our faith. “I try to always respect where the Spirit leads the group, “she said. “All questions are welcome, and sometimes we start out talking about a particular topic and end up on something entirely different!” They spend about an hour in learning and conversation.
Anne Lane added that while she uses the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer other books will work just as well and that you should choose one appropriate to your faith tradition and community.
If you’d like to know more you may contact her: The Rev. Anne Lane Witt
Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.