Agape Meal at Parish Hall during Holy Week 2023

The Agape Meal: Food, Fellowship, and Faith

Trinity Church Wall Street offers a variety of the traditional services for Holy Week including one lesser known but scripturally based event, the Agape Meal.

While not associated with the final days of Jesus’ life, the Agape Meal is an ancient tradition of table fellowship. 

Trinity parishioner Regina Jacobs has organized the Agape Meal for years.

“We used to meet in Charlotte’s Place before the Maundy Thursday service,” Jacobs recalled.

The Agape Meal in Charlotte's Place during Holy Week 2011
​ More than a decade ago, Trinity's Agape Meal happened in Charlotte's Place, a venue closed before the construction of Trinity Commons. ​

“It always felt hurried, it didn’t feel intentional, it didn’t feel deliberate.”

Regina Jacobs suggested moving the Agape Meal to Wednesday of Holy Week, in the gathering darkness following Tenebrae. She now prepares a liturgy with prayers, scripture, and a meditation, offered by lay members of the congregation, not by priests.

“It’s a hope to bring everybody together over a meal, something I just passionately believe in,” Jacobs said.

Regina Jacobs, organizer of Trinity's 2023 Agape Meal
Regina Jacobs, who organizes Trinity's annual Agape Meal, reviews last minute details Wednesday evening, April 5.

Jacobs admits to having been surprised over the years by different reactions to Trinity’s Agape Meal.

“One year someone said to me: ‘Regina, if you did not have the Agape Meal I would have eaten alone tonight.’

“For her it was the significance of being with others that night. It meant a lot to her and that was her takeaway.”

The Agape Meal appears to date from the earliest years of Christianity. The Greek word agapē designates love, but not brotherly love or erotic love; rather, the limitless fullness of Divine Love. The Agape Meal is not the Eucharist or Holy Communion, and it is not a reenactment of the Last Supper.

Scripture verses referring to this custom sound like critiques, not of the meal itself, but rather the behavior of some in creating hierarchy between rich and poor.

Salad and bread for Trinity's 2023 Agape Meal
Trinity's Agape Meal is simple with soup, salad, and bread.

Regina Jacobs believes that ancient issue of food insecurity born of inequality is still with us. While Trinity’s Agape Meal is simple, consisting of soup, salad, and bread, leftovers can be taken home.

“I also want this meal to feed others after the liturgy has ended, that they have one more evening that they can take some food.”

Regina Jacobs has dedicated many years to the creation of a spirit of hospitality at Trinity, and she notes that the Agape Meal includes elements of food, fellowship, and faith.

“Because of the liturgy created, our minds are now focused on a central thought around getting ready for Good Friday, getting ready for the holiest part of Holy Week,” Jacobs said.

“I hope they will take away that new sense of hope in Christ, that even though we are coming into a dark time, there is hope and there is goodness and there is light and that they feel some sort of rejuvenation.”