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Dinner Church


As Christians, our spiritual lives are nourished through participation in the sacraments, those things that have a physical sign and Our Lord’s direct command. For Lutherans that means two things: Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion. In baptism we are welcomed into God’s family and named beloved children; through the daily remembrance of this grace we continually remind ourselves of God’s forgiveness poured out for us like water. In the Eucharist, shared in community, we receive Christ’s body and blood into ourselves and we are re-affirmed in our participation in the communion of saints, Christ’s own body. The sacraments are “means of grace” for us.


Sadly, the on-and-off gathering restrictions of the past year have meant that many of us, not just those with other health or mobility limitations, have been unable to take part in the Lord’s Supper on Sunday mornings. We have been unable to fully utilize the means of grace that Jesus gave us to nurture our connection with his life, and the life of his community.


Of course we have looked for ways to overcome the present limitations. Sometimes people have come for private communion with the pastor. When services were fully online some prepared bread and wine in their homes at the pastor’s invitation and consumed them with the community on Sunday morning. Throughout this time our communion visitors have brought the bread and wine from Sunday worship to our most vulnerable and homebound members. These have been important adaptations of our practices to the times we are living through, yet each method feels incomplete, especially in the absence of the physical presence of the community.


What if there was a way to practice the Lord’s Supper that we could do in “normal” times and pandemic? What if there was a way to include homebound people and people with jobs and lives that perhaps meant they couldn’t make it to church on Sunday morning? What if this way to do Holy Communion was not novel but authentically rooted in the practices and traditions of Christians of the earliest church?


Dinner Church could be this way. Dinner Church is an ancient-future practice in which communion is celebrated in the context of a real meal, in the home, by any Christian, at any time. What do I mean by these things?


Dinner Church is an ancient-future practice. This means that it was practiced by the earliest Christians, going back to the New Testament Church. Followers of the Way of Jesus met in private homes, as modelled by Jesus himself in the many meals he hosted that are described in the gospels. But this is also a future-church practice that is increasingly adopted by congregations and communities in our day.


Dinner Church celebrates the Lord’s Supper in the context of a real meal. In these ancient, present, and future communities, the bread and wine of the covenant are offered amidst prayers of thanksgiving at the supper table where people are enjoying an actual meal. When scripture calls it the Supper of the Lamb, or the Feast of the New Covenant, it is not only talking in symbolic terms: it means Christians experience the real presence of Jesus in the middle of a community meal.


Dinner Church is celebrated in people’s homes. From the time of Jesus up until Constantine legalized Christianity in 313 AD there were no church buildings for public worship. Church always took place in people’s homes, in gatherings that were only as large as a private residence would allow. If it happened then, why not now?


Dinner Church is led by any Christian, not just the pastor. We are accustomed to having only pastors preside at Holy Communion because this is the custom we Lutherans have settled on “for the sake of good order” in the church. But there is no theological necessity that only pastors should preside. Indeed, in that early church, before a strict hierarchy of deacons, priests, and bishops existed, the Lord’s Supper was hosted by any informally-acknowledged leader of the community, including the women in whose homes the communities met.


There is so much more to say about Dinner Church and the possibilities it offers us for connection, celebration, and spiritual nourishment. As part of my current program of worship studies I am in the midst of researching the history, theology, and biblical foundations of the Eucharist, especially with regards to Dinner Church practices. I am excited to try this at Hope Lutheran because I think it offers another solution to our problem of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in time of pandemic, and has the potential to be an ongoing and life-giving part of our church’s life into the future. In the coming months I will be offering a teaching session on Eucharist and the possibilities of Dinner Church, combined with training for leaders who wish to try this out in their own homes. Watch upcoming newsletters and our website for details!


And please be in touch if you are interested in talking about this more! Are you excited by this idea? Concerned? Hopeful? Unhappy? Whatever it is, I look forward to our conversation.



Pastor Kristian


Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash