I am not an elder (fancy word for pastor) in the United Methodist Church and I probably never will be. This means that I am not able to consecrate the elements served in communion. As a lay-person, I can only help the pastor give out the bread and the cup, telling whoever comes to the table that the body of Christ has been broken for them just as the blood of Christ has been shed. Communion is my favorite sacrament. The idea that I can be filled with God’s love is astonishing to me. Something as simple as eating bread soaked in grape juice representing Christ’s sacrifice for me? Awesome.
Although I am not an elder, I am able to serve an unofficial communion during the week at the NOAH Project in downtown Detroit. Monday through Thursday anywhere from 150 to 300 individuals come through our doors to receive social services and lunch. I, along with volunteers or other staff members, pass sandwiches, brown bags, and cups of whatever our guests would like to drink through a kitchen window.
Sometimes, I’ll admit, it can be difficult to think of my position as part of what I would call “ministry.” Sandwiches and juice as ministering to the aches and pains of what our clients, some of the Detroit Metro area’s 34,642 homeless individuals, go through on a daily basis? Sure, whatever. Until those brown bags turn into deeds and I no longer need a job because all of our clients are housed, can I have truly made a difference? Then I think, maybe it’s not my job to find a place for every face I see in a day. Perhaps, simply caring enough to give a lunch and smile can make a significant enough impact on someone’s day to let them know they are cared for.
Too often our clients are told that they are not enough. That they don’t deserve much because they aren’t worth much, and I can’t even begin to count the ways in which that belief is wrong. With every sandwich I’d like our clients to know that it is the body of Christ broken for them. And with every Styrofoam cup of bright red fruit punch, or coffee, or hot chocolate that Christ’s blood has been shed for them. The love and grace of God cannot be reserved like tables at a five-star restaurant. They are given freely like ham, turkey, and bologna sandwiches from a kitchen window on the second floor of a church in downtown Detroit.
NOAH Project, Detroit, MI
US-2, Class 2015