Maundy Thursday – Dinner Church Style

Church #31. Meet Maundy Thursday. A few years ago, Good Shepherd moved from the traditional church service to a cross+generational dinner church model. And I love it! Why? Several reasons:

  • It’s practical! People need to eat.
  • It’s biblical! Jesus broke bread with his community.
  • It’s experiential! People encounter Jesus in a new participatory way!

Here is what we do:

As people enter the sanctuary, they are greeted by the first communion families at a hand-washing station. One kid squirts soap into the waiting hands, and a parent pours water over their hands into a bowl. Paper towels are given out by a different kid or parent. People find their way to a table.

Tables play an important role in this service. We eat at the table; the sermon is preached in conversations around the tables; we take offering at the tables; we commune each other at the tables; and we pray around the tables.

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After a gathering hymn and an opening liturgy, Dinner is served family style. All day homemade soup is cooked up in crockpots. To serve up the soup (and so people don’t need to get up from their seats), the pot is pulled out of the crock and placed on the table. We also provide bread and butter.

This year, the Bible Story is from John 19:25b-27 (yes, not a traditional text), and it’s done Table Preaching style: a little biblical storytelling, a little unpacking of the text, and then a little conversation around the table through a table tent and on the screen. Wash, rinse, repeat through the ideas of “family matters,” “words matter,” and “a word about a new family.” The point is that it all matters: families matter (because life can be messy; words matter (sometimes words can help or hurt); but in the end, it’s God’s word that binds us together as a new “church” family (Mary and the beloved disciple are the first church family).

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Prayers are done two ways. There is still the tradition of an assisting minister delivering the prayers of the people. But people will also write a personal prayer on a wooden stick to place in the fire watch (see below).

A metal bucket on the table serves to collect the offering.

Holy Communion is already on the table. People are given instruction after the words of institution on how to commune each other at the tables. Bread was baked by the First Communion families. Wine and grape juice are both available.

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After the stripping of the altar, the congregation is invited out to place their prayer sticks in Fire Watch. The fire watch runs from Maundy Thursday, 7 pm to Good Friday, 7 pm.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, fire and night

For more information on this story, please contact me at heatherrothjohnson@gmail.com.

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