I’ve been pastoring now for a little over four years, and yet a few weeks ago was the first time I did an Agape feast. Don’t know what an Agape feast is? It’s basically a communion service, but it’s placed in a context with food, usually outside of the sanctuary of the church. I know, you’d think that many of those things would be taught in Seminary, but you’d be mistaken.
Recently the Christian church celebrated Good Friday, so as I prepped for this weekend I thought about combining elements of both kinds of services. What I’ll present now is a synthesis of a few people’s ideas. And, of course, there are a million variations of this. But this is what we did.
Before the experience:
We arranged the tables in our “fellowship hall” into the shape of a big cross. It was lined with small tea lights all around. We had fruit, crackers, bread, and cheese on the table. On a side table, we arranged eight large candles (I’ll explain why later). There was music playing as people walked in.
1. Welcome and opening prayer. During the welcome, I took a moment to explain what the next moments were going to be about. This wasn’t going to be a typical experience. I introduced and explained what they saw before them.
2. Eating and fellowship. I then gave them about 15-20 minutes to get to know their neighbors and eat together.
3. Responsive reading. To introduce the praise and worship time we walked through a short responsive reading.
4. Praise and worship. Our worship leader put together a nice set of songs including “Here I am to Worship,” “Were You There,” and the “Old Rugged Cross.” Getting to sing these songs in an intimate setting was worth the whole experience.
5. Readings leading to the cross. We next did some special readings From Luke 18-19. Here’s what made this unique to a Good Friday service. Each of the readings led up to the crucifixion of Jesus. There were eight readings. After each one was read, the person that read would walk over to a side table and blow out a candle. The point is that by the end of the readings, the room should be fairly dark.
6. Testimonies. We then opened up the floor for a few minutes of testimonies on what this meant to them and what they were thankful for.
7. Ordinance of humility. We had tables lined up on both sides of the room where people could take some time to wash each other’s feet according to the example of Jesus in John 13. This was an open time. We had music going in the background. People were free to participate or remain at the table.
8. Communion. We finished by coming back to the table for communion. At the head of the cross-shaped table, we had the emblems: wine and bread. For the bread, we used pieces of pita bread. Instead of passing everything down the tables, we had allowed whoever wanted to participate to come to the head of the table and grab a piece of bread and take a cup of wine. From here every sat down and I lead them through the reading of Matthew 26:26-29 and I lead them through partaking in the bread and the wine.
It was simple, yet moving service.
A few extra notes. My friend Claudette Aleman gave me the idea of having certain “stations” in the corners of the room. In one corner of the room, we had paper and a paper shredding machine. We had a clip board with directions and a few Scriptures about how Jesus removes our sins and cleanses us when He forgives us. People could write down whatever burden or sin they wanted to Jesus to “shred,” and then they would pass it through the machine.
Though I didn’t use this other station, she also gave me the idea of having a corner with some fruit laid out, and some Scriptures concerning the “fruit of the Spirit,” where people could meditate and spend some time in prayer.
All in all, it was a great gathering.
Ryan Bell and Scott Arany of the Hollywood Adventist Church shared a copy of a Good Friday service they had done. It gave me several great ideas. He gave permission for it to be shared here: Good Friday Service. For the version that I modified and actually used, including a description of two of the stations click next: Good Friday Service Easter weekend pdf.
Have you ever done an Agape Feast or a Good Friday service before? How did you do it? What elements did you add? What was your experience like?