Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Five Loaves at the Lord's Table

Five loaves from diverse cultures represent the bread of life and the church as the body of Christ in a litany for Holy Communion introduced at a meeting of The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in October 2009.

A "Litany of Five Loaves" grew out of a decision to use five different kinds of bread, symbolic of the feeding of the five thousand, in the Service of Holy Communion.

The five breads were:
•    challah, from the Middle East
•    corn tortillas, from Latin America
•    naan, from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
•    pita, common in North Africa, Arabia, and eastern Mediterranean
•    chapatti, from East Africa.

Each one is identified with a quality or aspiration of Christian personal and social holiness. The congregational refrain is: "Lord we are one in community and faith."

Klay S. Williams wrote the litany. Mr. Williams, who did his undergraduate study at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and his graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey, is skilled in the use of symbols and metaphors. He has written for various outlets. One of his poems appeared on the website of the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship.

In the litany:

•    Challah, linked to Shabbat meals, is used to represent the connection between God and people and the links among people.
•    Corn tortillas, identified as a luxury item in parts of Latin America, is said to represent the goal of eradicating poverty.
•    Naan represents the possibility of unity between cultures and countries in conflict; the petition is for collective harmony and healing.
•    Pita, international bread cooked at extremely high temperatures, represents unpleasant preparation that can be transformed into kindness and mercy.
•    Chapati, an unleavened bread like that used at the Last Supper, remains still while being cooked, and is used a symbol of peace, unwavering faith, and stillness in the presence of God.

The text of the "Litany of Five Loaves" follows:

Litany of Five Loaves

By Klay S. Williams

LEADER: Celebrated during Shabbat meals, challah bread represents a connectivity that we share with God and in community with one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ. In the midst of global religious conflict, systemic injustice, and fear of universal change, let us always remember to celebrate our call and intertwined destinies, as we live to serve God in word, truth, and deed.

PEOPLE: Lord, we are one in community and faith.

LEADER: The gift of God’s love comes without any cost to us. Corn tortillas, a luxury for many people in Latin America, demonstrate our communal privilege, wealth, and inability to be effective leaders in eradicating poverty-stricken communities. We celebrate in communion the hope of those living in a world of scarcity, despair, and hazardous conditions. May the spirit of universal love guide us in recognizing the areas in which we have failed to effectively lead, while giving us strength to help empower our neighbors.

PEOPLE: Lord, we are one in community and faith.

LEADER: India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are all communities that eat naan bread. While the waters of raging storms have surfaced in war, political disagreements, and catastrophic events within these countries, let us remember that we are one body in Christ. As we seek to celebrate these cultures in the enjoyment of this bread, let us also share prayers of collective harmony, cultural understanding, and healing within our community and throughout the world.

PEOPLE: Lord, we are one in community and faith.

LEADER: Pita bread is an international favorite often used to scoop sauces or dips. Most pita bread is baked in high temperatures, causing the flattened rounds of dough to puff up dramatically. Like pita bread, we are often placed in unpleasantly warm and tumultuous situations, causing us to not conduct ourselves with one another in Christian love. As we break bread together, let us reflect upon offering hands of kindness, grace, and mercy toward one another, as was demonstrated through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

PEOPLE: Lord, we are one in community and faith.

LEADER: Chapati bread is eaten in some Eastern African countries. The bread has a flat surface and is unleavened. Unlike most bread, chapati does not rise, but remains still before being cooked. Let us look to chapati as a symbol of peace, unwavering faith, and stillness in the presence of God. As we are sometimes faced with difficult decisions as leaders within The United Methodist Church and Christian faith, let us remember the gift of communal serenity.

PEOPLE: Lord, we are one in community and faith.

Revised from the original post published October 19, 2009. By Elliott Wright.

Image by: Cassandra M. Zampini
Source:Global Ministries