“And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)
On September 24, twenty-eight youth from St. Anne’s came together and had all things in common. On that evening, St. Anne’s Episcopal Youth Community converged upon the kickball field at Beaverbrook Park for a tantalizing game of kickball. It was a sight to see. Middle and High School youth joined together on the field, and what was meant to be just an evening of fun and games became something more. In an instant, kickball became evangelism, kickball became Mission. That Sunday evening, families and children spending the afternoon in the park saw us come on to the field, but quickly saw that it was more than just a game. It was a gathering of “all who believed [who had come] together and had all things in common.” What we held in common was the desire to follow Jesus, and it made an impact on those who witnessed our gathering.
During the game, a man walking his dog approached me and asked what Church we were with (I was wearing my collar), so I told him, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church. We chatted briefly and he remained and watched. Shortly after our interaction, he was engaged in conversation with one of our adult leaders. Later, she shared that the man was an Episcopalian looking to get back into Church. Our adult leader invited him to Church, and invited him to join us later that evening for Eucharist.
Following the game, we all sat together on the benches and ate. Conversation among the youth was fluid, and smiles and laughs rang out. Following our meal, we gathered our belongings and moved to another area of the park for our next meal: the Eucharist. Along the way we invited those we encountered to join us in the breaking of the bread. As the youth gathered together on the benches under the gazebo, each of them took turns reading the passage in John’s Gospel that we hear every year during Maundy Thursday, where Jesus kneels before his disciples, washes their feet, and says to each of them, and each of us; “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”
As we read, the picnic table became an altar, and the youth took turns reading paragraph after paragraph of the Eucharistic Prayer, because in that moment, “all who believed were together,” all who were present were witnesses to the community surrounding Beaverbrook Park, that St. Anne’s is a community that transcends the walls of the church building. And it all started because of Kickball and an invitation to break bread together.
This year in Episcopal Youth Community (EYC) at least once a month, the youth and adult leaders will meet in various parks within and beyond the metro area to have fun and to celebrate the mysteries of our faith in the Eucharist. On each of these occasions we will have fun, we will laugh, we will high-five, clap and cheer, and always at the end of it, we will come together and break bread, because that is what Christians do together, and we will invite those in the park to break bread with us, because that is what Christians are called to do.
What we read just two verses after, “all who believed were together and had all things in common,” is “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
I call these gatherings ‘pop-up Eucharist,’ because they ‘pop-up’ everywhere and anywhere. These are not just for the youth, they are for everyone. They are about becoming more committed followers of Jesus Christ. They are about engaging the world as a deeply intentional community of believers. They are about living as witnesses to a world that hungers for mystery, wonder, and awe. They are centered on praising God and having favor with all people. They are about being the Church. They are what it means to be a Christian – being together, holding all things in common, and holding steadfast to “the apostle’s teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers,” and then inviting others to be a part of it too.