NEWFOLDEN, Minn. – The Rev. Gary Barrett of Newfolden Evangelical Free Church and other leaders of an organization he started are hoping to engage Christians around the world in a simultaneous Good Friday communion service.
The virtual worship service by the organization, named One Body One Blood, will be livestreamed at 8 a.m. Central Time on April 2. Registration is requested, but not required. There is no charge to participate. To register, go to www.onebody-oneblood.org. The event may be accessed through YouTube by searching for "One Body One Blood," or through a link on the homepage of the One Body One Blood website.
The one-hour event will take place at 4 p.m. Jerusalem time Friday, April 2, Barrett said in a news release. “We decided to base the event on the Jerusalem time zone because, as the place where Christ was crucified and rose again, Jerusalem is ground-zero for the Christian.”
The service will include internationally recognized speakers, testimonials and passages from the Bible. The main speaker will be Ramesh Richard, an internationally-recognized theologian-evangelist, philosopher, teacher and author. Josh Edwards, worship leader and songwriter, will lead the worship.
The communion portion of the service will take place at the Garden Tomb where many believe Christ was resurrected. Munir Kakish, president of RCO Ministries and the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, will lead that setting.
To have Christians around the world simultaneously partaking in the Lord’s Supper “is part of what makes it so special,” said Michelle Landsverk, of Fosston, Minn., who serves on the board of One Body One Blood, a nonprofit organization for a new ministry that Barrett launched about a year ago.
“It’s bringing people together at the same time, so it is actually experienced in real time around the world,” she said. “As far as we know, that is the first of its kind. This has never occurred before, where Christians from around the world would at the same time be experiencing worship, prayer and the Lord’s Supper together.
“There’s real power in unity, and our world needs that,” Landsverk said. “It isn’t very difficult to see all of the division and strife and brokenness that is in our world, and unity is such a powerful thing. It’s a real sign of the power of God.”
The event has drawn hundreds of registrants in 28 countries on five continents, Landsverk said.
“Our mission is to invite Christians from every nation to experience community together and inspire acts of service that lead people to Christ,” Barrett said.
The goal is to connect a million believers, with participation from every continent, he said, noting that he and the leadership team, which includes believers from various denominations, have worked for a year to make this event a reality.
The team hopes the worship service will have a lasting impact, extending well beyond the holiday, Landsverk said. “Christ is no longer physically on this earth, but the church is His body and we are the hands and feet of Christ.
“So we are going to challenge people, during the program, to let God speak to them about something that they can do – in a very real and tangible way – to share God’s love with someone else,” she said. “Through acts of kindness, acts of service, we do anticipate significant impact in the world.”
Pandemic opens possibilities
Barrett, who has pastored the Newfolden Evangelical Free Church for more than 26 years, said that in 2020, for the first time in those years of service, the coronavirus derailed his church’s annual Good Friday Lord’s Table service.
But it also led to the birth of a new international ministry, One Body One Blood.
The idea for this upcoming worldwide Good Friday service can be traced to the winter of 2020, before COVID struck, when the Newfolden Evangelical Free Church was installing a new sound system and a parishioner suggested the addition of a camera. Barrett agreed, “little knowing what would happen with the onset of COVID-19,” Landsverk said.
Last March, when the pandemic shuttered the Newfolden church – along with houses of worship everywhere – the added technology proved to be valuable, she said. The camera was put to use to livestream services.
With the approaching Easter holiday in April last year, clergy of all Christian denominations were faced with the question of how to conduct worship services as public health measures blocked congregations from gathering in person.
Leaders at the Newfolden church “were trying to figure out how in the world can we do this when we won’t have people together, because that’s part of that experience, that people are together sharing in the Lord’s Supper,” Landsverk recalled.
Church members were instructed to have the communion elements in their homes, and the service would be streamed. That way, they could all partake together, she said.
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Thanks to the new audio-visual equipment, the Newfolden Evangelical Free Church was able to livestream the service on Facebook and church members were able to participate from their homes, connecting to the service – and each other – through their smartphones or computers.
Following the service, Barrett received messages of thanks from people from other states, some who lived as far away as Florida.
Not a ‘technology guy’
“A lot of people don’t know this about Gary Barrett, but he’s not really a technology guy,” Landsverk said, “so that’s what’s so amazing about him having this vision for this new ministry, because that’s really not his wheelhouse. For somebody that is really into technology it might be sort of a natural thing to think about bringing people together with technology.
“It kind of just happened, it almost seemed by accident, but we like to think it was God’s direction,” she said.
“After that happened, he realized there’s something powerful here and I think we could do this in an even bigger way,” she said. “If we can connect people in other states, we can connect people in other countries, in other continents. And so that’s kind of how the vision was born.”
The Newfolden Evangelical Free Church and the Bethel Assembly Church in Fosston invite everyone who’d like to gather and watch the service, and partake in communion, to experience the service in person at these churches beginning at 8 a.m. on Good Friday, Landsverk said.
She and fellow members of the One Body One Blood board are hoping ministers will capture this opportunity and invite parishioners to gather and participate in this service at their churches, she said.
But the board members don’t see this as “a one-and-done event,” Landsverk said, noting that it is just the first of other similar events. And oddly enough, COVID played a role in bringing all this about.
Even though “we’re not grateful for the pandemic,” Landsverk said, “I don’t think it would have happened without the pandemic.”
It calls to mind, she said, the Bible verse, Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God …”