I often pray in my kitchen, and even more so during the last year when we have largely been worshiping at home. The bishop who confirmed me told us we should pray while doing the washing up (I’m sure he said lots of other wise things as well, but that’s what I remember!) and I really took that to heart. And as I have prayed in my kitchen I have thought back over the times when I have encountered God in kitchens, but would not at the time have recognised her as such. In the kitchens of my Granny, step-mum, aunties, friends, in the experience of being heard and seen, of being valued and taught and fed, in recipes passed on and struggles shared, so often I have been in the presence of God in the kitchen, and not realised it at the time.
Last year, as lockdown started, there was a certain amount of controversy in the wider church about the concept of ‘church at home’, and particularly what seemed to me a slightly snobbish dismissal of the kitchen as a site of worship. And it seemed to me that some of that dismissiveness was associated with seeing the kitchen, and the domestic sphere more generally, as ‘women’s space’, and therefore not a ‘proper’ place to encounter God. In that context, Christa seemed like the ideal companion with whom to reclaim that space as holy ground, and to explore what it means to recognise God in the kitchen.
On meeting Christa in the kitchen Where else would she be but here, among the everyday miracles that feed us, the rising of daily bread? I met her here long before I knew her name, the body of Christa inhabiting the kitchen, elbows planted firmly on the table, or leaning up against the fridge, a mug of tea in hand – or else a glass of wine – moving with a grace and ease that taught me how to take up space. Her arms lifted me up to stir the Christmas cake, for luck. Her fingers guided mine, until the movements came as easily as breathing. Her ears heard into speech my deepest dreams and longings, back turned and busy, to attend to what could not be said face-to-face. She passed on the wisdom of how to make a meal out of nothing. She has slipped between the pages of my battered recipe book, spattered with chocolate and gravy. There she is, in a living litany of kitchen saints, in Granny’s biscuits, Dora’s fruitcake, Genny’s hot cross buns. Here in the kitchen, Christa wears a pinny as holy as any vestment, and suited to every season. She breaths deeply, freely, rolls up her sleeves, and gets stuck in.
Christa – the female figure of Christ – emerges from a tradition of female forms of the Divine which stretches back to the earliest days of Christian history in art and theological writing, though it has often been suppressed by a male-dominated, patriarchal church. For contemporary Christian feminists, Christa can provide a freer and more expansive way of exploring Christological concepts and doctrines, in ways which move away from the patriarchal frameworks in which these theologies have become entangled.
My own journey with Christa has been most strongly influenced by the poetry of Nicola Slee (“Seeking the Risen Christa” (SPCK, 2011)) and the art of Caroline Mackenzie (https://carolinemackenzie.co.uk/).