Open air communion service in Normandy, 1944, by Sgt Leeson (public domain)
In war, in peace,
In bread and in wine,
Our stories entwine,
And God offers grace that heals.
This is a table of peace,
Where war and hatred will end;
Love that is offered will conquer all. (Refrain)
This is a table of hope,
Where past and present are met;
Hopes for the future are here laid bare. (Refrain)
This is a table of tales,
Tell us the story again;
Jesus feeds friends who will not stay true. (Refrain)
This is a table of love,
Where God will make us complete;
In bread and wine is a myst’ry shared. (Refrain)
This is a table of joy,
Christ through his Spirit is here;
His is the body we take and share. (Refrain)
This is the table of Christ,
Risen and meeting us here;
In war or peace he is with us still. (Refrain)
Words © 2015 The Revd Ian Smart
Metre 77.9 with refrain
Suggested tune: “Chereponi” (StF 249) ("Jesu, Jesus" / "Kneels at the feet of his friends")
Ideas for use
This text is written to go with a tune familiar from its use with “Jesus, Jesus” (“Kneels at the feet of his friends”). It is well suited for use on Remembrance Sunday, if communion is celebrated, or on other occasions when the impact and questions of war are being considered.
You may wish to hold singing the final verse until following the sharing of bread and wine. (cf. the occasional practice of dividing Brian Wren’s I come with joy, a child of God so that the final two verses are sung as a response to communion.)
And a question for reflection. When Erena Shirley Murray’s hymn “For everyone born, a place at the table” was being considered for inclusion in Singing the Faith, it was decided that the line “abuser, abused, with need to forgive” could prove difficult and hurtful to anyone who had been in a situation of abuse, and so the hymn was not included. Before singing this hymn you may wish to take time to reflect on its own challenging implications. As Ian Smart puts it (see below), at the communion table the “peacemaker and peacebreaker”, soldier and pacifist, victor and victim are all welcome”.
“To me, the table where we meet the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread has less to do with mysticism and otherness and more to do with how our God is constantly in our midst and part of all that happens. The Eucharistic table is therefore less of a haven from the world and more the real place where heaven and earth are seen together.
That must mean that war and peace are both here, and that in this meeting place not only is heaven and earth “intertwined”, but “peacemaker and peacebreaker”, soldier and pacifist, victor and victim are all welcome at the feast of our Lord and at his table. We all come before our God to put out our hands to receive.”
Verse 3 speaks of the communion table as “a table of tales”. Ian Smart writes: “To me tales are stories that convey a meaning or a depth. Folk tales talk about the culture that they come from, and people tell the tales of their community as a way of establishing their identity.” This raises the wider question of the “tales” that we tell to express the essence of our church communities. What have been the defining events; the stories or example of individuals; the values we endeavour to enact?
Having spent 19 years working in IT, Ian left that world behind to become a Methodist Minister in 2001. He has served in the Cambridge and Bolton Circuits, and has a deep love of worship that connects people where they are, with God in all his glory. He believes that this can be achieved through the imagery of a perfect piece of liturgical text as well as through a piece of modern hymnody with a driving beat. “To me, worship is less about style and more about relevance and honesty.”
Ian also co-hosts the radio show “The Spirit of Bolton” on Bolton FM, and is the chair of the charity UNCLE, which supports churches and cares for children in Nepal.