During the week of July 14, 2013 eleven members of the Hope Moravian Church of Hope, Ind. traveled to Staten Island, New York on a Mission Trip. Lots of Moravian congregations have been doing that very thing this summer, as so many of us are moved to help out the many East Coast residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed, just nine months ago, by Superstorm Sandy.
The trip unfolded pretty much as we had hoped. We arrived on Saturday evening, worshiped the next morning with our friends at New Dorp, our host congregation, and then did some sightseeing in Manhattan on Sunday afternoon.
The experienced and skilled craftsmen in our group took charge first thing Monday morning and we got to work doing the sort of things we who are veteran “mission trippers” are accustomed to doing. We laid floors, framed walls, replaced doors, hung sheetrock, spackled and taped—and despite the soaring temperatures (we had inadvertently picked the hottest week of the summer), were able to make a positive difference in the lives of four different homeowners. This is why we came, and all of us were feeling good about the week.
Our work each day was ably coordinated and arranged by the Episcopal Diocese of New York’s Disaster Response Organization, and some of us worked side-by-side with members of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes, Delaware—folks who, like us, were in Staten Island on a mission trip.
On Thursday evening something very special happened that made this weeklong mission trip even better than we had hoped. The Rector of St. Peter’s and I thought it would be a good idea for our teams to have an evening meal together and share in worship, so on July 18 two Jeffs—Father Jeff Austin Ross and Pastor Jeff Van Orden—had the privilege of serving Holy Communion to our fellow missionaries. And in doing so, all of us present that evening actually made a litte history. We participated, together, in a joint Episcopal/Moravian Communion service—a Communion service that would not have been possible without all the work that had been done to bring our two churches together.
When you think about it, this is at the heart of what it means to be in “full communion” with another Christian body. It includes working together to serve folks in need and it includes the ability to gather around a table and share together in the Eucharistic Meal. I have a hunch that this is exactly what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me.”
Jeff VanOrden is pastor of Hope Moravian Church in Hope, Indiana.
From the September 2013 Moravian Magazine