From the Discipleship Ministries manual of The United Methodist Church: The Love Feast, or Agape Meal, is a Christian fellowship meal recalling the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry and expressing the koinonia (community, sharing, fellowship) enjoyed by the family of Christ. It is not the same as Holy Communion or the Eucharist.
Agape Meals have been part of the Lenten tradition of Greenbelt Community Church for years. After two years of sharing this time remotely because of the pandemic, we will once again gather in person beginning this evening, March 1. The cost is up to you. There will be a basket for free will offerings. That money will go to mission giving through our Board of Missions.
This year the theme is “Amazing Grace”. It is the 250th anniversary of that well-beloved hymn. The story of the writer, John Newton, gives added meaning to the words.
John Newton was born in 1725 in London. His father was a merchant ship captain. His mother died when he was about 7 years old and by age 11, he was accompanying his father on board his ship. By age 18 he was a participant in the lucrative slave business. He would later say that he considered it “an easy and creditable way of life.”
During these formative experiences, he also remembered the influence of his mother and the faith she taught him as a very young child. Eventually these two parts of his life collided off the coast of Ireland when a fierce storm threatened to sink his ship. The phrase in the hymn “the hour I first believed” is the direct reference to this event. It was his conversion moment. It was the moment that changed the direction of his life.
John Newton left the sea and the slave trade and trained and became a minister.
Each year after the near shipwreck experience, he commemorated it with a day of prayer and contemplation. The person who had traded in slaves became a fierce abolitionist and advocate for justice for African Americans.
He also became a prolific hymn writer. He met the poet, William Cowper. Together they wrote a collection of hymns titled “Olney Hymns”. That collection includes 68 hymns by Cowper and 280 hymns by John Newton. The three most familiar hymns by Newton (slave trader changed by God’s grace into churchman) are “Amazing Grace”, “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” and “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds!”
Come and join us at the Agape Meals on Wednesday evenings and hear stories from the Bible of God’s Amazing Grace.