Watwat is What?


We had Communion (Eucharist) Sunday at church today.200811-a-cooking-club-potluck The message focused on Paul’s first letter to the church of Corinth. Apparently in Corinth, the church would practice Love Feast wrongly. The love feast was an early form of Eucharist. A full meal was meant to be shared by the entire church… much like a potluck dinner. The big difference is that it wasn’t meant simply to demonstrate fellowship (koinonia). It was meant to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus before his arrest, trials, and crucifixion. It was also meant to symbolize unity and equality in the church family. But this wonderful imagery was marred by members of the church who brought food for themselves while others who were poor got none.

This reminded me of a story from the Kankana-ey— a tribal group up here in the mountains of Northern Luzon. A friend of mine is doing his dissertation with this group. He tells a story that I will here paraphrase. There was a Kankana-ey man, wife and two sons. Sadly, the man died leaving his wife a widow. Other children would pick on the boys because they didn’t have a father. This community periodically had “Watwats.” Literally the term means share-share. Ceremonies would be held where animals, pigs and chickens, would be killed/sacrificed, cooked, and distributed to all of the people of the community. However, the family of the widow would be given the worst parts of the animals— chicken feet, pig hooves, and other meatless parts.

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One day, the elders of the community came by the house of the widow to hold a house blessing. After the blessing, the sacrificed chicken as well as the items from the previous watwat were to be served to the elders. When the elders saw that they were being served hooves and chicken feet they were offended. However, the widow explained that that was what they were given at the watwats. The elders considered this matter. A watwat is an event for the whole community, sharing in the common blessing. It is not right that some are treated better than others. So they established the principle that widows and orphans are treated as well as all others.

Leaving this story now and going back to the Eucharist, today the Lord’s Supper is no longer a supper, but more symbolic (or sacramental, depending on one’s theological/tradition) meal. I feel that it is a bit sad that the Eucharist has changed… but I think it is too late to change.

But maybe there is a better solution.  Perhaps we can consider the Potluck Dinner more sacramentally– “from those according to their ability, to those according to their need.” Koinonia, Christian fellowship, is well represented by the Love Feast, or as modeled in the Watwat.   And the potluck dinner of many churches also well represents this, unity and equality in Christ… if people are helped to understand the meaning in the rite. Perhaps it can also look back on the sacred gathering of Jesus with His disciples, as well as the future marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19).

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