The Last Supper wasn’t just a gathering where the disciples had a small piece of bread and a little sip of wine. It was a full meal. They gathered around a table to pray, talk, laugh, and cry. Near the beginning of the meal Jesus took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it and gave it to them to eat. Then after the meal Jesus took the cup of wine, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them to drink.
We know from the biblical record, and other ancient documents, that the first Christians followed this example of celebrating the Eucharist in the context of a full meal. Some of these gatherings they called “Love Feasts,” so we know that they weren’t somber affairs!
One of the aspects of dinner+church is the harkening back to this ancient origin of Christian Worship, by putting Holy Communion back in the context of a meal.
It’s also a meal where everyone gets a chance to participate. While there’s a dedicated cook or two making sure the meal is ready, there’s also time for everyone to help set up the tables and chairs, get out the tablecloths and plates, mix up a salad, etc. Everyone gets to have a part, whether it’s your first time at dinner+church, or you’re becoming a regular.
We begin our worship with the lighting of candles, a song, a prayer, and the blessing of the Eucharistic Bread. Then we sit down to enjoy the main course. When everyone is finishing up, we read a scripture lesson from the day, and we have a discussion period about it after a short sermon. We pray for the needs of the church and the world. Like the Last Supper we wait for the blessing of the Eucharistic cup after dinner.
Then we all jump back into action! It’s time to get things cleaned up. Again, everyone can participate — putting away the tables and chairs, washing dishes, or wiping down the tablecloths. When everything has come together we sing a closing song, we share in the passing of the peace, and we have a little sweet treat.
It feels very “new”. And, at the same time there’s something very “old” about it. Sharing a meal, sharing the Bread and Wine, sharing the song and prayer, and sharing the prep and cleanup helps us also to remember to share our lives together in a beautiful gathering that can certainly be described as a “love feast.”