Communion on Coggeshall Street

April 29, 2019


"Why is this night different from all other nights? The answer is always the same, we were slaves in Egypt, but God set us free. We eat unleavened bread, we drink the cup of passover, because we are no longer slaves. We are free men and women. Some of you have been homeless for seven, eight or even nine years, but imagine you were part of a people who had been enslaved for over 450 years. You eat this meal because God has set you free."

The Holy Spirit announced his presence that day by a hush that fell on our small group of Anchor volunteers, homeless and neighborhood friends that gathered for Bible study on Wednesday morning of Holy Week. Mary Ellen had approached me the week before, asking if we might celebrate communion at our small Anchor Center on Coggeshall Street. For the past several months, a small group had been coming together to study the Gospel of Luke together. This week, Sally led the group through a study of Jesus’ Last Supper. Mary Ellen believed the time was right to share communion with our friends from New Bedford’s north end.

"Just as Moses faced down Pharaoh and led Israel out of slavery, so too Jesus faced down a greater Pharaoh, death itself, and leads us out slavery to sin, addiction and death and leads us to a new promised land of eternal life."

Some of the people began to weep. "Steve", a man whom we have served for years and has logged the better part of a decade in the woods along the railroad tracks, began to nod his head as tears streamed down his face. He mouthed the words as I held up the bread and announced the words of Jesus, "this is my body, which is for you." "This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood." "By the sinless body of Jesus broken in our place, by the blood of the new covenant, we are no longer slaves to addiction and sin, we are free sons and daughters of God."

Then as the elements were passed around, community broke out in that little space, as those we have served stepped forward to serve the bread and the cup to those who had gathered in that room. The served became the servers. The line between volunteer and client was erased. We were just family. Brothers and sisters with the same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Conventional wisdom says if we want to build a church, we grab a building, start a worship service, with the hopes that the community might come and become disciples of Jesus. But have you ever noticed that while Christ commanded the church to make disciples, he reserved for himself the task of building the church?

For years we have been present on Tuesday nights through the Mobile Ministries food truck in the PAACA parking lot. For the last year, Sally has led a Bible study, followed by a lunch headed up by Mary Ellen, "the Lord’s Lunch Lady." We have built friendships. We have expressed love. We have shared the Gospel. But on that Wednesday morning, the Holy Spirit showed up and church broke out in one of the most unlikely of places.

We build relational bridges at Anchor, but it is God who brings people to life.