Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
“The more we serve, the greater we are.” With these words, a lay minister in one of Moscow’s multidenominational Christian congregations began a sermon on the spiritual, moral, and civic imperatives of providing assistance. Themes of service are prominent in the words and actions performed by participants in Moscow’s Christian communities, especially as congregations promote social welfare and social justice activities as intrinsic elements of Christian modes of religious expression and experience. Food sharing activities are noteworthy among these social welfare and social justice. Not only do food sharing activities address immediate needs for impoverished recipients, they also fit within longer theological traditions in which food has occupied a central role in religious ritual life. Thus food mediates the many different communities and experiences that constitute religious life in Moscow. Yet food also troubles distinctions between two important aspects of Christian religious life: hospitality and service. Drawing on fieldwork among a group of Moscow-based Christian communities, this paper examines how food sharing activities move between modes of hospitality and service in ways that animate and complicated fellowship as a form of social action and civic engagement.