Emily recently did this interview with Bianca Swift for Issue 168 of NY Spirit magazine.
A Visit with Emily Scott, St. Lydia’s Pastoral Minister
A new kind of Christian worship is on the scene in New York. This one doesn’t take place on Sunday mornings in a church, but instead sitting around a dinner table in a Zen center located in Brooklyn. The focus is on prayer, scripture, sharing, and appreciating life through the body’s five senses. We were curious about this alternative approach to religious worship and connected with Emily Scott, St. Lydia’s Pastoral Minister.
Bianca: Can you quickly describe St. Lydia’s for readers?
Emily: At St. Lydia’s, we gather every Sunday evening to share what we call a “Sacred Meal.” We cook a big meal together, then bless the meal with an ancient Eucharistic Prayer that we sing together. Our worship takes place around the table as we share the meal: we read and explore scripture together, offer prayers, and sing. At the end of the evening, everyone works together to clean up.
Sharing a meal together is a practice that has its roots in the earliest days of the church. In the Bible, we read of Jesus breaking bread with his friends and saying, “This is my body.” For the first few centuries of the church, Christians gathered on Sunday to share a full meal. Those who had much to give shared food with those who had little, and bread was blessed and broken. Over the years, the practice of sharing a meal became more and more symbolic, gradually becoming what we see in most churches today.
At St. Lydia’s, we’ve returned to the practice of sharing a full meal with one another, and have found that it’s fed and nourished us, spiritually and physically.
Bianca: What can you tell us about the beliefs you explore?
Emily: We have this phrase at St. Lydia’s, “practice before belief.” Instead of trying to figure out what it is that we believe — trying to capture it and write it out on paper — we try to simply practice faith. That means showing up for Dinner Church, singing and praying, being in communion with others, even if you’re not sure what it all means. We trust that God works through our worship to draw us closer, to change us and be revealed to us. We’re very comfortable with doubt at St. Lydia’s, and see it as a healthy and active part of our lives of faith. Sometimes we’ll read a scripture passage and someone will say, “I really can’t get on board with this.” Other times, folks will speak about feeling like God is absent in their lives. It’s all a part of the seasons of our relationship with the divine.
Bianca: You call St. Lydia’s progressive. Can you explain?
Emily: I think the most important thing about St. Lydia’s being a progressive church is that we are not only inclusive of, but affirming of a full range of expressions of human sexuality. I believe that God created us as embodied people, which means that we inhabit bodies made of flesh and blood. We desire connection and relationship with one another. We crave intimacy. No matter how we’re called into relationship with one another, be that a relationship between two men or two women, or how we’re called to express our gender identity, God has made us just as we are, and blesses our impulse to love and honor one another with our bodies.