India: Strengthening the Church through the Lord's Supper

By R. Thinagaran Richard, India

I have been teaching in our church at Chennai, Ayyanawaram Maranatha Prayer House (AMPH), on the Household Texts for the last three years, from BILD’s First Principles booklets and the way of Christ and His Apostles. Once the church pastors and elders of the church shared with me that there was no real fellowship between the families due to social and economic differences. Many are from Ayyanawaram slums, and some are middle class in good jobs, they did not have real relationships with one another. The church was largely Sunday morning activities - long worship, long sermons and shorter time of praying and interacting with one another. The Lord’s Table was celebrated traditionally on the first Sundays with token pieces of bread and separate small cups of grape juice.

First, I taught the local church pastors—L. Samuel, Joel Dhinakaran, John Kamalesh and other elders—to celebrate the Lord’s Table with a real meal. Initially, they were not willing to mess with their common sentimentality of 'Sacredness of Holy Communion and Holy Sanctuary.' I continued to teach and guide the leaders, who eventually convinced the church families to bring lunch for their family and with little extra for newcomers or individual believers.

Accordingly, every first Sunday, the church families gather at 9:30 a.m. with congregational singing, testimonies, community prayers, announcements, and teaching the word till 12:30.

The Lord’s Table starts with the breaking of the bread and passing on the cup along with the lunch that each family brings with something extra. It is a beautiful sight of differentvarieties of food on a plate as different families relate as one family. You know, eating food from another caste is taboo in the Hindu caste system. Here, no one knows or dares to ask who brought what. Even the poorest of the poorest bring pickles or others bring manual labour.

After quickly cleaning and socializing, the church regroups again. The children and adults exercise their giftedness: singing, Bible quiz, skits, and reciting Bible verses. Followed by group discussion, they study The First Principles booklet. The gathering closes with the ministry of the Word at 5 p.m. Though it is a long time from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the church families celebrate the belongingness.

The results are:

* They study the Word in small groups through free discussion.

* The church families understand the family concept of church and breaking the bread and fellowshipping.

* The barriers of caste and economic differences are broken down as everyone freely and lovingly socializes with one another. Since lunch is served at the church, the menfolk, who would be absent largely, started gathering as the church.

* For this special day, the families eagerly save money for the whole month.

* There are opportunities to exercise their spiritual giftedness.

* The church families develop unity, bond of love, and care for one another.