Breaking Bread Together

by | May 7, 2020

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42

In nearly every conversation diocesan staff has had with clergy and lay leaders in the last two weeks, someone has asked when we might be able to share Eucharist with one another again. While there are many questions that I, as your bishop, cannot answer on my own, this I can offer: 

The invitation to a weekly practice in your home of what’s known as an Agape meal. 

Our friends at Virginia Theological Seminary have crafted simple prayer services for those living alone, those in families and shared households, and for those who wish to join in table fellowship via technology. We’ve adapted those lituries and placed them on the Worship and Prayers page of our COVID-19 Resource Hub for you.

Here’s the idea: that we take time to thoughtfully prepare a healthy, simple, and delicious meal, including wine or a non-alcoholic festive beverage. We set a lovely table for ourselves or in community with others. 

We begin with a psalm, such as: 

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear? 
The Lord is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 

Then we offer ancient prayers as we give thanks for our the blessings of food and drink: 

Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Creator of the universe. You create the fruit of the vine . . .  
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Creator of the universe. You bring forth bread from the earth . . . 
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Creator of the universe. You have blessed the earth to bring forth food to satisfy our hunger . . .

As we eat, we ask ourselves and one another reflective questions such as: 

“In the past week, what has been difficult, what have I mourned?”
“What grace or gift have I known or received?”

Then we turn to Scripture, perhaps the appointed Gospel text for that Sunday, or any other passage. After reading aloud, we might reflect on its meaning for us. 

We continue with prayers for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities, and the world. Then we conclude with these words: 

I have marked this day, both mourning and rejoicing. 
I have marked this day in faith that God will hear my prayer.
With the whole church I raise my voice: 
Surrounded by illness, we mourn our dead;
yet still we say, Alleluia.
We know loneliness and discomfort; 
yet still we say, Alleluia.
We cannot see the way that lies ahead;
yet still we say, Alleluia.
All we go down to the dust;
yet even at the grave we make our song, Alleluia.
Alleluia Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Persons of all ages and abilities are encouraged to take part in these meals. It would be especially appropriate for the youngest child present to ask the reflection questions after the blessings of the wine, bread, and other foods. Children could read the gospel passage or another reading. Young people might be invited to fill the role of the presider or offer the collect for the day and other prayers.  

I, too, long for the day when we can return to the fullness of Eucharistic worship. Yet we know that Christ is present with us in our homes. Use this time to practice this ancient ritual of table fellowship, and be fed by the One who is known to us in the breaking of bread and in the prayers, no matter where we are.