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Becoming What We Receive: Communion in Community

I have been reflecting a lot lately about the holy connections between food, faith, and justice. In my daily life, I work part-time as a cook in a French neighbourhood cafe and part-time as a community connections coordinator at my church, where I build relationships with church members and neighbours through our weekly community dinner, neighborhood events and celebrations. In both of my jobs, I use food to feed, nourish and connect people in my workplace, church, and community.

Every Wednesday evening in our church, we set the tables, prepare food in the kitchen, and create a welcoming and warm place to eat together with people in the neighborhood, including many newly arrived refugee families who live next door at the Welcome Centre, which provides transitional housing and supportive services to refugees in Vancouver. Our church is transformed from a place of worship to a place of feasting with a community of diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual people sharing food, stories and life together. Some of our community members are low-income, homeless, and face challenges including mental illness, addictions, trauma, and poverty. For many people, it feels like an extended family dinner, with kids running around the room, piano playing in the background, and people talking, laughing, and sharing tears of joy and sorrow with each other.  

Food is an essential part of our lives. We all need food to survive, grow, and thrive, which means that access to food is a human right and is necessary for human dignity. Food also has the power to break down negative stereotypes and divisions between people, and gather people together in unity around a table—no matter what divides us, eating together reminds us that we are all humans, needing to receive our daily bread. As a Christian, I am struck by how food is also a central expression of our faith and our relationship with God and each other in the sacrament of communion. At our weekly community dinner, communion is extended from Sunday morning church service to Wednesday night dinner where those with little faith and those with much faith are all invited to eat together. 

At our weekly community dinner, communion is extended from Sunday morning church service to Wednesday night dinner where those with little faith and those with much faith are all invited to eat together. 

In our communion liturgy, I am reminded of the body of Christ given to us and the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross for “whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23-26). This simple yet extraordinary individual and communal act of eating bread and drinking wine together is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experience. We are truly transformed when we become what we receive in Christ for “we, who share his body, live his risen life; we, who drink his cup, bring life to others; we, whom the Spirit lights, give light to the world” (Anglican Church of Canada).

As I think deeply about the sacredness of communion, I am challenged by this question: how can we remember and live out this sacred experience of communion in our everyday lives—at work, home, school, church, and in our communities? How do we use our Spirit-filled imagination to embody Christ and build right relationships with our neighbours and faithfully steward our land? Since communion is the Lord’s Supper, how do we share the body and blood of Christ in this holy meal with others in our community?  

By becoming what we receive in communion through the bread of heaven and cup of salvation, we can show the love, compassion, grace, and hope of Christ in all areas of our daily lives.

There are many ways that we can remember the sacrament of communion when we see the relationship between food, faith, and justice. We receive and share the gifts of the body and blood of Christ when we do small and humble acts of giving thanks and praying before meals or preparing a table and inviting our neighbours and newcomers to eat together. At the same time, we carry out the work of reconciliation in building right relationships with God, our community and the land, and live into the calling “to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). This means addressing challenging justice issues of food insecurity, hunger, food waste, and environmental sustainability. We can learn about and advocate and work towards justice on systemic food issues like decolonizing indigenous food systems, supporting sustainable food production and small scale farms, protecting agricultural lands, practicing conservation, and increasing access to affordable and healthy food for the poor and marginalized. I’ve linked to just a few organizations that could help you get started or take some next steps.

Let us remind each other what it really means to take, eat, remember, and believe in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as we invite others to the table to break bread and share food and life together in our home, work, school, church, and community. By becoming what we receive in communion through the bread of heaven and cup of salvation, we can show the love, compassion, grace, and hope of Christ in all areas of our daily lives. May we become more like Christ as we seek reconciliation and justice for the poor, oppressed, and hungry, and care for the land and farmers that feed and nourish us with good food, including the wheat for bread and grapes for wine – the gifts of God for the people of God.    

[Image: Flickr user Piotr]

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