Seeing is Believing: The Living Last Supper
By: Roy Maynard
There’s no sermon at the Living Last Supper service at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Mount Pleasant. There are words, to be sure, but the narration is only part of the story. Actors portray Jesus and His disciples, along with servers and other characters, in a visual representation of some of the final hours of Christ’s life before His crucifixion.
“It’s not a play,” said Rev. Kristin Bogart. “Our narrator tells the story, but the disciples don’t speak. It’s told through shadows and light; it’s almost as if we were watching the Upper Room through a screen. To me, it feels like we’re looking back in time and watching the story unfold.”
The Living Last Supper is an annual tradition at St. Andrews UMC. For more than 20 years, its members have offered this dramatic recreation of the last meal of Christ.
“People look forward to participating in it as much as they do seeing it,” she said. “Those who participate as actors, those who tell the story and even those just supporting it are as moved as those who come to hear the story.”
It’s an emotional experience for many. “We never fail to have at least one or two people leaving in tears,” Bogart said. “And because we move from the Last Supper to the beginning of the crucifixion, people know what’s coming next. And yet, it never fails to jar them.” The Living Last Supper is staged twice each Eastertide, at 7 p.m. on Holy Thursday and again at 7 p.m. on Good Friday.
“What I love about the Living Last Supper is that it invites you to see yourself at that table,” Bogart said. “That’s why Holy Communion is always a part of it. After the story is told, everyone is invited to come and receive communion.” Other churches have similar services; in nearby Pittsburg, Rev. Hill Johnson says his church does it every other year (this is an off-year).
“When we do our Living Last Supper, it’s nearly always standing room only,” he said. “We see it as a way to reach out to the community. The reaction we get is always very positive. It really does bring tears to eyes. Any follower of the faith can hardly see this story and keep a dry eye—when it’s done well.”
At St. Andrews, a cast of about 30 (35 with stage hands included) will evoke the historic event. It ends, as Good Friday did, with darkness. “At the end of the story, we extinguish the light—the light of Christ—and you’re invited in your imagination to draw closer to the crucifixion,” said Bogart. “It allows us to experience it through our senses and through our hearts, and not just our minds.” St. Andrews United Methodist Church is located at 2019 N Edwards Ave. in Mount Pleasant.