Peacemeal at the Greenbelt Communion Service

Each summer in Britain there is a huge Christian music and arts festival called ‘Greenbelt’, the centrepiece of which is a Sunday morning communion service.

© jackharrybill http://www.jackharrybill.co.ukAlways inspiring, wonderfully creative, but understandably restricted to a small piece of bread and sip of wine due to the many thousands of people participating.

However, over the years of attending I have endeavoured to subvert proceedings in a small way by arriving at the communion service with bags filled with large loaves of bread, piles of soft fruit, and boxes of red wine with an array of metal cups to serve it in.

At the point when we gather © jackharrybill http://www.jackharrybill.co.ukin small groups to share the bread and wine, I encourage everyone around to rip up the loaves and – along with the fruit and wine – to share it within the group and then as widely as possible among the other surrounding groups. On one occasion Rev Phil Barnard, a Baptist minister from London, got caught up in the eucharistic mayhem we were creating. He later reflected:

Large loaves of bread, fresh fruit and a wine box, no less, were being passed around us: ‘have more’ being the refrain. Any sense of unfamiliarity or even guilty irreverence soon dissolved into joyous liberation.”

28677831583_ccfba11b0b_oPhil went on to say:

“Growing up conservative evangelical, my singular experience of communion was the ubiquitous grape juice shot glasses and a tiny cube of bread. As a pastor I have always struggled with the rather stilted or artificial nature of the ‘meal’, so being invited to ‘have more’ of the bread, the fruit and the wine, of Christ’s presence in me, of fellowship was truly a wonderful experience.

The fact we didn’t all know each other yet we celebrated in abundance the unity of the body, the wholeness in knowing Christ as a group: the reality of communion became dramatic. No longer was it about ‘nip and sip’ in solemnity it was about joyous abundance, a celebration of what Christ has done for us.”

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Phil and I became friends, and on a later occasion he invited me to lead an Easter Sunday Peacemeal at a unique service in south London called ‘First Sunday’.

This is a regular monthly gathering of three church congregations in that part of the city. The focus of the Peacemeal was celebrating the risen Jesus in the context of a full meal, which also of course included an abundance of bread and wine. It was a great time.

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Story by Noel Moules and Phil Barnard.

Click the links to find out more about Greenbelt festival and First Sunday.

Pictures used with the permission of Greenbelt Festivals.

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