By Martin Hutchison
In my 27 years of pastoral ministry tonight was the most meaningful Maundy Thursday love feast experience ever for me! Any other church I have been part of would have fired me on the spot for messing with the “Holy Ground,” but not Community of Joy.
Normally on the Thursday of Holy Week we host a love feast which is attended by 20 to 25 people. It is a “holy huddle” for the church, and for many is a high moment in our worship life as a congregation. It consists of a simple meal, washing one another’s feet, and communion. It is modeled after Jesus’ last meal with his followers found in John 13.
On Palm Sunday, I shared the Lord’s instructions to the disciples when he sent them to get a donkey for him to ride into Jerusalem. He told them untie it and, if asked why they were doing that, to say, “The Lord needs it.” I challenged the church to figure out what we had to untie to become vessels for Jesus in the world--and sometimes that means untying ourselves from our past and our traditions. Then I announced that we would be untying love feast. Instead of huddling, we would open the ministry center for half an hour for drop by quiet time with God and communion. Then we would arrive at the community garden at 6 p.m. for a simple meal, which Sharon and I provided. Then the “feetwashing” would be to work in the garden.
Upon arriving at the garden, I was swarmed by 12 to 15 children, all wanting to help and all hungry and wanting to eat with us. We had made provisions to have enough for all. In total, with church folk and community folk, we had between 40 and 45 people engaged in the love feast. One family of four I met by “God-incidence” on Wednesday in the garden, and they were looking for a church to connect with. The kids knew me from my work at Pinehurst Elementary School and from a field trip to the garden last year.
We enjoyed eating together and then worked until dark, with kids coming and going, many engaging in deep ways in the work and in the ever-deepening of relationships. It was indeed a holy moment where the church left the building to put into practice Jesus’ command to love one another as he loves us, and to become known by our love.
-- Martin Hutchison is pastor of Community of Joy Church of the Brethren and founder of Camden Community Garden in Salisbury, Md. This is from an e-mail he sent to Jeff Boshart, manager of the Global Food Initiative which has given grants in support of the community garden. In a closing note to Boshart and other friends of the church and the community garden, he wrote: “Thank you for your role in our lives and for supporting our crazy ideas to follow Jesus out of our building and into our community where we are growing more than veggies!” Find out more about the Global Food Initiative at www.brethren.org/gfi .