Unitarian Universalist Thanksgiving Bread Service
SCHENECTADY The loaf of cheese babka Rosemary Bishop held Sunday in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady brought back memories of the days when her Polish grandmother used to make the bread from scratch, and set the loaves on a warm radiator to rise before they went in the oven.
The loaf of white bread Steve Healy held reminded him of eating butter and honey-slathered slices from similar loaves baked by his mother, who died when he was 33.
“My bread is not fancy, but it is the first thing I baked in my new home,” one woman said, holding up a small, tan loaf.
Another woman, who said she wasn’t good at baking bread, offered up a tray of brownies laced with zucchini, a trick she said she learned from her mom.
About 15 different baked goods and the stories that went with them were featured in Sunday’s Multigenerational Thanksgiving Bread Service at the UUSS.
The ceremony differs from communion services at Christian churches, where bread symbolizes the body of Christ, but this communion is no less sacred, said the Rev. Priscilla Richter.
“It really is a communion, as we share in the labor of those who brought bread and shared their lives through their stories,” she explained. “People baked bread and were very thoughtful about what they brought and how they were going to present it, and I just really love the stories of the generation-to-generation thing about special breads. It speaks of community and it speaks of family and togetherness.”
Some of the baked goods brought to the service were sugary, some had nuts, some were vegan, others were gluten-free, but Richter said all shared a common element: love.
“The grain growing from seed is nourished by the earth, rain and sun, harvested, assembled, then baked in the fire, with the most important element of this whole process being love — the love that we put into baking bread — and when bread is made with love, it just tastes more delicious,” she told the congregation.
After the story of each bread and baked good was told, loaves and trays were placed on a harvest table decorated with a centerpiece made from vegetables, gourds, nuts and fall flowers. Worship assistants broke the bread and it was passed out to the congregation, along with small cups of cider.
Animated conversation filled the space as congregants sampled the baked goods.
“This, I feel, is one of our most sacred services, but it’s fun, it’s lively, it’s energetic,” Richter said. “A lot of people think sacred is solemn and that kind of thing, but this really, for us, is a lot of what religious community is all about. We learn about each other; we grow from one another.”