This article is from Issue 47 of “On The Move,” a publication of new learning possibilities for churches, at one time published by The Joint Board of Christian Education of Australia and New Zealand.
Although some ideas and liturgies may appear somewhat “dated” in style, concept, imagery or language, they may nevertheless offer a spring-board for new ideas among people who find themselves leading worship, perhaps in a new context, and with some trepidation.
Reproduced with permission. May be reprinted for use in local congregations only.
– by Les Brockway
The week following the major festival of Pentecost is an excellent time for a number of extended family Agapesinvolving members of the congregation.
Following the celebration of Pentecost in the public worship event of the local church, invite people to link up with pre-selected host families to continue the celebration in extended family home celebrations throughout the week. Advise that they are to bring a little food to share as well as a spirit of openness to follow up the Pentecost celebration on Sunday. All are welcome.
First some general guidelines, and then a more specific order for the Pentecost extended family Agape.
Genera1 guidelines for the Agape fellowship meal
The Agape fellowship meal is the separated Agape (i.e. parated from the Eucharist) and may be regarded simply theAgape or the Love Feast or the Bread of the fellowship.
Agape recalls the meals that Jesus shared with his disciples during his ministry, and the meals of table fellowship of the early church when they shared fellowship with the risen Christ and with one another and rejoiced in what God was doing in their midst. This recalling may be done by statements, scripture lessons, prayer and acts (like sharing bread).
Spontaneity and informality are the key notes for an Agape. The event may be held in a church sanctuary or hall. but if it can be held around tables then this seems to reflect more of a household type experience.
Any person can lead, and congregational participation (children, youth and adults) is an important factor. Singing. testimonies, prayer, scripture and creative sharing are all important aspects of an Agape, especially with an emphasis on what the Lord is doing in our midst now. Story-telling is an important aspect of sharing the faith today – telling the Story and telling one’s own story. So is the use of drama, song, dance, painting and other creative forms of expression. Many things happen as the Spirit moves, but
some form of proclamation in a sermon or address or exhortation is common. Witnessing often becomes a powerful aspect of the service.
Agapes involve the sharing of food often bread. If a beverage is used it could be water or juice or tea or coffee. It is not appropriate to use communion bread and wine or grape juice, nor to set apart (consecrate) the bread and beverage. Often no words are said with the sharing of bread and water, but if they are, something about Christ being the bread of life and water of life seems appropriate. However, it seems more common today just to have the sharing of the bread without the water.
It is better symbolically to share bread in the Agape by cutting it or by breaking it in such a way that the act cannot easily be confused with the ‘breaking of the bread’ in the Eucharist. One way could be by sharing the bread in common with each other. Care needs to be taken not to overdo symbolism at the expense of spontaneity in a simple informal Agape meal.
On many occasions an offering is taken for the poor and the leftover food is given away as an expression of love.
To promote community and a sense of worship, only necessary clearing up is done during the proceedings, and cleaning up is best left until after the event when some can continue to share in diaconal service.
Family units (both nuclear and extended) as the church in the home have great potential for the celebration of theAgape. However, any nuclear family Agape needs to be seen as complementary to the wider communal life of the church, i.e. the congregation at large and the extended family.
One way to have your Pentecost extended family Agape
Remember what was said in the opening paragraphs of this article. You will need to pre-select some host families, and then on Pentecost Sunday you will invite people to link up with these families. Say a little bit about the food to bring and share, as well as a spirit of openness. Make all people feel welcome, and let it happen.
This is one way it may happen once people gather together in homes in extended family groups.
• Sing ‘Light up the fire’ while the candies are lit.
• Read a scripture meal story recalling the table fellowship of the early church, e.g. Acts 10:39-41 or Matthew 26:6-13.
• Share the bread with all. While each person takes a piece let him/her share thanksgivings for some aspect of the wor~hip celebration last Sunday (or, if one happened not to be present, thank God for something in life).
• Prayer of thanksgiving, e.g.
Lord God Almighty, our Father, whose son Jesus Christ took the bread and the fish to feed the crowd in Galilee: we thank you for the food you give us. Through your providence we have this bread, symbol ofyour goodness, and this one extended) family, as from many grains ofwheat comes this one bread. As we share this bread during this Pentecost season, pour out your Spirit upon us that we may know your love and share completely our lives together, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’
• Meal. In conversation continue sharing impressions about last Sunday’s celebration; general conversation.
• Scripture lesson suitably story-telling reading for Pentecost or Trinity (i.e. next Sunday), e.g. Acts 2:1-21 or John 5:16-23.
Creative activity. Invite people to express their understanding of the Holy Spirit and their faith in the power of the Spirit in their lives (based on the reading) by making a mural, doing some drawings, or by some other creative means of expression.
• Plan for somebody to share this (a one to three minutes presentation) during an extended family sharing time in the first part of next Sunday’s public worship celebration.
• Theme song again (one or two verses).
• Concluding prayer/s.
• Retire to the lounge chairs and bean bags for coffee etc.
Les Brockway is secretary of the Board of Education for Ministry of the Northern Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia. The Agape was the subject of his doctoral dissertation.