Summer is a great time to slow down, relax and enjoy one another’s company. At St. Elizabeth’s Church in Sudbury, there is a new summer tradition that reflects that slower summer pace: the cookout Eucharist.
Every Wednesday in July, St. Elizabeth’s parishioners gather for a come-as-you-are Eucharist outdoors, and then share a cookout meal. The church provides hamburgers and hot dogs, and parishioners can bring a dish to share if they wish. Rector Barbara Williamson said that around 15 people usually gather for this casual evening, and that it is very much an intergenerational service. There is playground equipment on the church grounds, and children who prefer not to sit still are welcome to play instead.
“There’s a real sense of cross-pollination of different demographics,” Williamson said. “It’s the feel of a family picnic: a lot of camaraderie, everyone hopping up to help others, everyone helping with the clean-up.”
St. Elizabeth’s clergy do not preach at the weeknight Eucharist. Rather, parishioners simply share a discussion of the Gospel reading amongst themselves. “There have been times when the most remarkable insight came from an eight-year-old,” Williamson said. “The liturgy really feels like the work of the people.”
This is the second year that St. Elizabeth’s has offered Eucharist on Wednesday nights in July. This year, they will also gather on the first Wednesday in August, to welcome back a group of youth and adult volunteers from a trip. During the school year, St. Elizabeth’s has a Sunday attendance of about 140 people between two services, but as in many churches, that number dwindles during the summer months. Having a weeknight service is a welcome opportunity.
“Many people go away for the weekend [in the summer], so they’re happy to have a weekday Eucharist they can go to and feel connected to the community,” Williamson said. “We have a lot of fun!”
--Ellen Stuart Kittle