Homeless Communion is a ministry of signs and wonders. Sharing bread and wine is a sign and it causes people to wonder. A recent encounter with a young man bowled me over. He and his friend stopped and stared. His friend refused the bread and wine and continued to stare.
The other man looked at me and said ‘ok then I’ll have his share’ I replied: ‘ There is always more’
I handed him more. He became silent, looked at me in the eyes and said with great feeling ‘God bless you!’ .
Somewhere in his history, I could see in his eyes, this all of a sudden made sense and there was a connection.
By its inherent nature though, The Homeless Communion needs to be homeless. It can’t belong to any one group, place or time. The idea of releasing the bread and wine beyond the building suggests that there also needs to be a release of geographical boundaries too because placing it within a church or denomination brings with it a sense of ownership creating expectation, assessment, merit and reward.
I’ve found to localise it, to a certain street corner or within a particular street, town or city, is almost to anaesthetise it’s possibilities.
As a Methodist I sought a rubber stamp for this adventure;
“Somehow Methodism must embrace hospitality and avoid the development of a congregational attitude whereby the local church and the local congregation is the only horizon within which it sees a celebration of the Lords Supper…The Lord’s Supper is a universal celebration as much as a local rite” (conference agenda 2012 p523)
When I was initially prompted by the Spirit to move in this expression of faith, I sensed it was from City locations across the country, joined by a gathered community of people who for a variety of reasons want to share bread with others in their City. The action of breaking bread in the City Centre immediately removes the idea that only the worthy can partake and makes Christ present not just through us but in all. In fact each time we celebrate communion we are turning the world upside down. (Bruggermann)
It is permissible within my theological understanding to see the Homeless Communion as a new type of Eucharist, perhaps without the religiosity that didn’t save us from our continuing sins even though we’re prepared. (Abuse and power within institutions have not been prevented by Eucharistic prep) John Wesley invited people to an Open Table but in effect that table wasn’t always extravagantly open because he went to great lengths on one occasion to baptize someone into the church in order that they could partake of the Lords Supper. I do not see the Church as possessing such a narrow boundary and therefore believe that ‘anyone who eats of Christ flesh and drinks of his blood becomes….’
I am not aware of Christ himself making those conditions of membership to his banqueting table at the last supper. Homeless Communion uses a liturgy that includes an epiclesis and is not city specific (see below) This liturgy is said by the group of two or three that are distributing and where there are two or three there is Eucharist! The cup is offered as a cup of love, or with a simple sentence saying ‘this is for you’ and the bread is offered as a gift of grace or simply as a piece of bread to remind us we are loved & known by God daily.
There is always the temptation to contain something in order to control it yet The Homeless Communion is a rough sleeper, a refugee, a traveller, itself. It has no permanent home and lives wherever it is welcomed for the time it takes to share bread and wine. In that action of participation it finds sanctuary. It’s not a feast setting that is meant to take up residence anywhere specific but where we allow, the mystery of its power lives as Christ’s presence within us and around us, communicating with us perceptually & spiritually through our actions of breaking and sharing.
Our diverse and transient City populous may cause us too to look beyond the western interpretation of the death of Jesus and see the bread and wine as that symbol of liberation which it is for those who know injustice because they are not part of the indigenous peoples .It says in short we stand together in your plight and more than just us, we stand with God in God’s resurrection action to counteract the unjust killing of Jesus. Here in this moment we belong.
In breaking bread out in the open air, we open a more global understanding which challenges our perception, opening the narrative and allowing it to be interrupted by the unprepared, the untrained, who through participation have the right to become the body of Christ. Wesley was always confident of Christ’s presence in communion and spoke of the converting power of the Eucharist.. I would not want to miss extending the opportunity for conversion by curtailing the distribution to be within the control only of the established church.
Sources I have drawn from are:
His presence makes the Feast,
John Wesley’s Doctrine of Sacaments,
Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition ,
Krieder, Communion Shapes Character
,Sarah Miles, Take this Bread
Boeve & Ries . The Eucharist & Human Liberation.
The Homeless Communion liturgy
We meet at this place of grace as citizens of Gods world, celebrating the fragile hope of God made flesh in our City.
God of Grace
Rejoice with us in our celebration and may the Spirit of the lord be upon us
God of community
Bring us together in our sharing at this place of feasting
God of unity
Support us in our working together as you come into a hungry world as bread, and into a thirsty world as wine.
God of hope
Struggle with us towards renewal, as into our regret, God, comes as hope.
Jesus pictured the kingdom of heaven as a great banquet to which everyone was invited and is accepted.
Here and now, among some of the impossibilities of life, Jesus invites us all to eat and drink in his honour.
And we will do so until he comes again, in this moment, in this place, past, present and future ,the Spirit of the Lord abounds.
The body of Christ is present in Liverpool and we experience this in the sharing.