The Sacramental Wonder of the Mission Parking Lot

You know the incredible work of the First Street Methodist Mission! Even during the pandemic, they have found creative and effective ways to serve our neighbors in need. To not put guests at risk, the parking lot has been redesigned as a vibrant “grocery store” on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Families are fed with sacks of non-perishable items, along with fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, and protein. But Linda Murphy (Director) and Bernie Scheffler (Assistant Director) instinctively knew that something was missing. People were still longing for spiritual food in the form of Holy Communion.

For as long as human beings have reached toward God, we have sought physical expressions that make divine love real and tangible. We call these expressions sacraments. In addition to baptism, we recognize communion as a sacrament and call it a “means of grace.” Communion is also referred to as the eucharist, which comes from a Greek word meaning “to give thanks.” The First Street Mission has always given thanks for every person we are honored to serve. In the past (before March), communion was offered inside the building every month. But with that not being an option at this time, Linda & Bernie channeled their inner-John-Wesley to resolve to take the eucharist outside to the people; so that guests and volunteers alike can seize every opportunity to experience the risen Christ in the bread and the cup!

With the blessing of our staff leadership team, the Mission has offered communion and expressions of thankfulness to hundreds of guests during the past two weeks. I have the honor of sharing the words of institution and consecrating the elements with our circle of volunteers before the grocery service begins. Then we approach each vehicle with the offer to receive the thin wafer and grape juice, which are safely packaged together. About 80% of our guests accept communion, and many of them are visibly moved. Some people have also asked for specific prayer requests. . .such as a young mother telling about her one-year-old daughter Melanie having brain surgery in October; or a man telling about his brother Michael who was hospitalized with a stroke; or a lovely woman named Vimmie enthusiastically announcing it was her birthday — and smiling broadly as all the volunteers sang to her.

All this is a wondrous sight to see! The Mission parking lot has been transformed into a sacramental table that respectfully feeds people in body, mind, and spirit. COVID-19 cannot defeat the gracious love of God offered to each and every one of us. I believe that Mr. Wesley would be proud – and I hope you are as well.

Dr. Mike Marshall
Associate Pastor of Leadership Development


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