Breaking bread: A compassionate collaboration in Ultimo
The church is at its best when it brings people together and creates an environment of belonging one to another. The COVID crisis, with its requirement that people maintain physical separation, has had a disrupting impact on all religious groups. Congregations have had to look beyond traditional approaches to achieve a healthy sense of shared life.
The move to worship online, with each person or household separated in their own place, has radically changed, and generally reduced, engagement together. We miss all the incidental and casual interactions that were once commonplace as we physically gathered in our church buildings.
It is not an easy nor straightforward matter to maintain, let alone build and strengthen, those crucial links between people when most of our interaction is mediated by technology.
So when our local baker, himself a Coptic Christian, oﬀered to help us share bread together in a COVID-safe way, our congregation was deeply moved.
Shady and Rose Wasef, who own and run the PiOiK Bakery (Pioik is the Coptic Egyptian word for ‘the bread’) in Harris Street, Pyrmont, have been making a special communion sour dough loaf for the MustardSeed church for many years. They see this as part of their fellowship with the local community of believers and an expression of their worship of God.
When it became apparent that churches were not able to meet together, Shady suggested he make individual rolls – all from the one dough – that could be distributed the day before. Then, as we broke bread together, each of us in our own places yet connected by the magic of cyber- space, we could continue to share in the one bread.
Sharing the one bread has always been a powerful sacrament. At a time when we are not allowed to be together physically in the same space, the reality of sharing the one physical bread is an even more meaningful experience.
The delivery of the bread to each household (by the minister the day before the communion service) also oﬀers an opportunity for pastoral conversation and connection (at the prescribed distance across the threshold). In these ways, our PiOiK communion bread has become a very special connection point for the members at MustardSeed Ultimo Uniting Church.
It is one of the many examples of care that lift our communities during this challenging time of fear and lockdown. In the darkest of times, God’s light shines. Our MustardSeed Church community continue to be profoundly grateful to Shady and Rose and the team at PiOiK.
Rev. David Gore is the Minister at Ultimo Uniting Church