Inspired by a vision of the global church, Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church’s communion on Pentecost Sunday included breads representing different parts of the world.
“Pentecost is a celebration of God’s Holy Spirit in all places,” said Emily Ulmer, worship arts coordinator for the Grand Rapids, Mich., congregation. With that vision in mind, leaders at the church planned a “sensory feast” for May 15. “There were choirs singing and kids dancing, but we also wanted it to taste like a feast,” Ulmer said.
To accomplish this, the church organized a day for people to gather and make communion bread representing different parts of the world.
Six people gathered at the church on the Saturday before Pentecost Sunday to prepare four types of bread: injera, a bread originating in East Africa; mantou, a Chinese bread; a Native American corn cake; and a bread representing the Netherlands.
When choosing the bread, Ulmer took care to be mindful of different regions of the world while choosing simple recipes. “We talked about how in many places around the world, people don’t have ovens.” Among the breads they made, the Chinese bread was steamed, the Native American bread was boiled, and the Ethiopian bread was cooked over a flame.
The time of making the bread was also a time of fellowship for the bakers, who spanned ages from childhood through adulthood. “I’ve always recognized that good conversations can happen through the process of baking bread,” Ulmer said. “We gave [them] some guided questions and let it go from there.” Topics ranged from describing when they first took communion, to favorite types of bread and stories revolving around bread. They also read through a Pentecost anthem that tells the story of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible.
Ulmer said she was continually reminded of the metaphor of Christ as the bread of life. “We share one bread as one community, and I wanted this to be experienced in a tangible way,” she said. “Everyone was excited about it.”
The next day was Pentecost Sunday. The bread was used for communion as a way to emphasize God as a global God. “Maybe not every denomination around the world follows a church calendar, but they still read the story of Pentecost and are blessed by it.”
What was left from communion was set out for a church potluck following the service. Ulmer said that the bread was very well-received, and the church may consider ways to continue making communion bread rather than buying it.