Give us our daily bread

Published September 1, 2009

RECENTLY, I HAD an opportunity to visit the Church of St. John in Gothenburg, Sweden. Set on a hill overlooking the harbour, there was a growing line of people waiting for the daily bread distribution at 10 a.m. Although the exterior of the church was very traditional, the interior had been wonderfully transformed for mission.

As I entered, I could smell fresh bread. The cupboard was filled. The baskets beside it were overflowing. There was plenty for everyone who stood in line – for themselves and in some cases, for their families. Beyond the narthex was the cafe area where sandwiches and coffee are available throughout the day. At 1 p.m. a full course meal is served to all who gather. Some live in poverty. Some are homeless. Some are addicted. Some are abused. Some are burnt-out. Some are migrant. All are welcome. All are fed and nourished.

The cafe opens into a lovely liturgical space, complete with all the furnishings one associates with the ministry of word and sacrament. At the chancel steps, rough rocks configured in the shape of a cross held votive candles – each one lit as a sign of prayer for someone in desperate circumstances, someone in need of healing, someone in need of the support and counsel offered through recovery step-programs.

The pastor – Michael was his name – spoke of the ministry in and out of St. John’s Church. The staff gather daily for morning prayer. A very small congregation gathers for the Sunday liturgy. But for the Wednesday evening eucharist, the church is filled to capacity. It is as the pastor put it, “a blessed mix of people” from all walks of life. They are drawn by the warmth of the welcome, the reverence in the liturgy and the commitment to servant ministry.

I lit a candle at the cross and offered prayer for all who pass through the doors of this church looking for daily bread for the body and for the soul, and for all those who in Christ’s name provide it.

The ministry of this church and many like it across Canada enlivens my reflection on the daily distribution recorded in the 6th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. It also enriches the manner in which I pray with you and all people everywhere, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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