The Gathering Church (Grottoes, VA) continues to celebrate firsts, as they recently held their first Communion and foot washing service. The love feast was integrated into their normal Sunday morning gathering, in the fire department hall the church gathers in. The church has been holding public services since March of 2017.
In the weeks leading up to the Lovefeast, Lead Pastor Justin Morris preached and taught through passages on the bread and cup, and prepared the congregation for this important time. The Gathering has also spent significant time in the book of Leviticus over the last few months, trying to deeply understand God's story of calling his people into holiness, and the incredible importance of symbolism and rituals that God uses in the Old Testament. "It's always about more than just what's before our eyes," says Morris.
Justin reached out a number of Brethren pastors, including Bill Ludwig (Five Stones Community Church) and Jeremy McClung (Muskoka Community Church), as well as Fred Miller (Mt. Olive Brethren Church) to talk about the practical and logistical considerations of the practice. The church reports that there were a few over 60 adults in attendance and 15 children, and they estimate that at least 90% of those in attendance participated. Justin took extra care to lay a foundation of understanding with the congregation around the practice of our faith that can be thought of as "odd" or "weird" in current culture. There were even visitors to the church that morning that were able to engage and be welcomed! To introduce the concept and process of foot washing, one of The Gathering's key leaders demonstrated the practice with his wife before all were invited to partake.
As these things often do, much about the planning had to be surrendered. A rash of sickness has swept through the community recently, and nearly the entire worship band at the church was out with sickness that morning. Adjusting on the fly, instead of singing in musical worship, the congregation talked through the much wider expression of worshipping God, that is not limited to just singing. Despite planning setbacks, congregants said it was a "moving and reverent time," and that they "felt the gravity of the special moments."
Justin mentioned that it was really powerful to "see Dads washing their kid's feet, and husbands and wives." The church finished the morning with a classic southern feast; a carry-in dinner and Log Cabin BBQ.
Morris shares, "It was an amazing moment for the congregation, and we're excited that four kids gave their lives to following Jesus during kid's church that morning as well!"
It certainly is gratifying to see that new budding Brethren Churches are practicing the Communion service including the footwashing element that some of our established churches are dropping from some of their Communion services. The Three Fold Communion service is one of the distinctives that has identified us as Brethren that we should guard against changes that would make the Communion Service more convenient than meaningful.