Agape Meal Worship
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12. Agape Meal Worship

Love Feast

Fish SymbolAn "Agape Meal Worship," otherwise called a "Love Feast," is described as a religious meal held initially by early Christians, which eventually developed into the service of Holy Communion. "Agape" is the New Testament Greek word for self-giving love. Christians sometimes hold Agape meal worship on Maundy Thursday before Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In the early development of the church, Saint Paul hints at a meal before the Communion in 1 Corinthians 11.20-22. "When you meet together, you are not interested in the Lord's Supper. For some of you hurry to eat your meal without sharing with others. As a result, some go hungry while others get drunk. What? Don't you have your own homes for eating and drinking?" It is evident from this letter that there are abuses present when some eat heartily, and others go hungry. The Early Church's answer to this problem seems to have been to separate off the Agape meal worship from the solemn part of the worship time. A modern version of the Agape which may be used at a conference or in the church hall may look like this. The room should be comfortable and maybe lit with candles for ambiance. Table and chairs set out in a "U" "horseshoe" shape facing each other.

Worship Call

Bible Radiating LightThe leader should distribute the Gospel and Epistle readings in written form for everybody in advance. The service begins with a call to worship, such as "The Lord be with you" (assuming people have arrived and are engaged in casual conversation.)

Hand Washing

Hand WashingOne person with a jug of warm water and bowl, another with a towel pass around the group and pour water over each person's hands. They say, "This is a reminder of Jesus' love and servanthood," and then, "In Jesus' name, we welcome you to this Agape Meal." The persons with the jug and the towel have their hands washed last of all.

Agape Love

Wine Bread Water

Soup and SaladThe House of Faith group shares the wine and bread with a Gospel reading and general prayers as part of the Agape Meal Worship. A public conversation takes place with the sharing of Agape wine and food then ask a volunteer to share a poem or testimony. After the first course of the dinner, we all stand for the Gospel. A 3-5 minute interactive moment follows (what did you think of this or that?) After the general conversation, the main course begins with testimonies or poems.

Separate Little Cups

A read from the scripture is shared as opposed to the formal Prayer of Consecration used by many churches. Two people then give out the bread with wine with the words "the body of Christ" and "the blood of Christ" The wine should be in separate little cups rather than a communal container or vessel. In essence, this is a critical detail insisted on by Archbishop Finlay when he approved this format. The bread with wine can be consumed at once or formally at the same time together. Open prayer and the laying on of hands or anointing with oil may be used when appropriate at this point. Someone should pray for the church, the world, and other needs like the sick, the dying, the church, civic leaders, the Queen as appropriate, and general personal prayers then follows. All say together at the end, "Glory to God from generation to generation..." Blow out the candles to signal the end of the sharing of the Agape Love Meal.

Follow the Lord's Teaching

ScriptureA Collect for the day may be said then a passage of scripture appropriate to the occasion, or one of the following passages. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3.16 Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." John 6.35 The teaching should be based on the Gospel, Epistle, or other set Bible passages. A confession of sin may follow. Use the following form.
Leader "Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry, and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us, that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your name. Amen"

Communion Service

Bread and WineAccording to Jesus teaching the Communion service, the Mass or The Lord's Supper, depending upon your denomination, was instituted in the Upper Room. When a clergy person or the Bishop is present, a home may hold a Eucharist or Holy Communion service but not more than one week in four. The Communion service may be alternately called the Lord's Supper (in many Protestant Churches), the Mass (in the Roman Catholic Church), or the Eucharist (in many Anglican Churches.) Celebrate it from an approved service like that of the Anglican B.A.S. or other recommended texts for worship services or commonly used format as in the Baptist Church. These are other names used to describe the communion service in denominations like the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Lord's Supper

Jesus teachingThe Teaching is based on the Gospel or Epistle set Lectionary readings for the day. Sometimes an Old Testament reading also may be used. A sharing time when individuals can share their views and questions can take place after the teaching to discuss any matters arising from the reading and its relevance to us today. The following is a short form of service suitable for a House Faith home communion service.

House Faith

Praying HandsLeader. "Let us pray."
"Brothers and sisters in Christ, God calls us to faithful service by the proclamation of the word and sustains us with the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. Hear now God's word, and receive this holy food from the Lord's table."

Jesus Christ Deliver

Cragy stone wallsWe pray that the Lord Jesus Christ deliver us from all temptation and evil and give us life through Jesus. The Bishop or in the Bishop's absence a Priest prays, "Almighty God have mercy upon you, pardon and deliver you from all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness, and keep you in eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." A Lay Leader may say, "Almighty God have mercy upon us, Pardon and deliver us from all our sins, Confirm and strengthen us in all goodness, And keep us in eternal life, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Our Father

Father hugs his sonThe Minister introduces the Lord's Prayer, "And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say," The People say together, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen" Evening worship prayer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can be used by the House of Faith group to deepen faith. Leader: "O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly. Hear my voice when I cry to you. Let my prayer be presented in your sight as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen."

Holy Spirit

Evening Light"O gracious Light, pure brightness of the ever-living Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed.
Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing your praises,
O God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O giver of life, and to be glorified throughout all the worlds." One or more scripture readings for evening worship prayer, followed by silence. These could be a Psalm to begin, an Old Testament portion from the Law or the Prophets, a passage from the Epistles, and, most importantly, the Gospel Reading for which all should stand out of respect.

Study Time. Sharing Time. Intercessions and Thanksgivings. The Lord's Prayer and Dismissal.

Leader: "Let us bless the Lord."
People: "Thanks be to God."

Consecrating Bread Wine

Bread and WineConsecrating bread and wine at the communion involves different beliefs by denominations as to what happens. The words of consecration used by the Priest may be understood in different ways by various denominations. At the time of the Reformation, this was a contentious issue and the cause of much debate, even violence. Consecration is the solemn dedication to a particular purpose or service. The word "consecration" from the Latin word "consecrat" means "association with the sacred" or something or someone "dedicated, devoted, and sacred." Thus a new bishop may be consecrated. An extraordinary act of consecration is that of the bread and wine used in Holy Communion. Protestant belief is that these elements are reminders of Jesus' life and death on the Cross, in contrast, the Catholic understanding is that of "transubstantiation" or the miraculous changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Pre-consecrated bread and wine (or non-alcoholic equivalent) may be used at the Communion service by the Lay Leader if permitted by the particular denomination.

Administration

Minister "The gifts of God for the People of God."

People "Thanks be to God." The following words begin the sacrament.

"The body of Christ (given for you)."

"The blood of Christ (given for you)."

The communicant responds each time. "Amen."

Doxology

The following doxology may be said by the People, "Glory to God, whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and Christ Jesus, forever and ever. Amen." The Bishop or in the Bishop's absence a Priest says a Blessing. Alternatively, a Grace may be said together (See Resources Step Five.)

"Agape Meal Worship"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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