“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:46)

 

religion revard
Image: Corey Arnold

Duke Revard tackles a load of laundry for the less-fortunate at the Alberta Washhouse.

Bread & Wine

At 6:30 on Wednesday evenings, Duke Revard, 31, picks up his daughters’ oversize puzzles from his living room floor while his wife, Caroline, bakes cookies and brews coffee in the kitchen. It’s a scene that could be playing out in many other inner Northeast Portland homes, but there’s one difference: the Revards are prepping their home for spiritual service. Wearing the neighborhood’s uniform of beard, brown duds, and a light sheen of sweat from a recent bike ride, Revard casually describes the homespun house of worship: “God is approachable and relatable; Jesus was an intelligible entity.”

That simple, mutable ideal nurtures Bread & Wine, the church Revard planted in the Alberta Arts District in March 2009. Eschewing robes, altars, and buildings in favor of friendship and familiarity, Bread & Wine is a church in the broadest sense of the word. Members are spread among small, semi-autonomous “gospel communities” of about 12 people each. With sofas and living rooms standing in for pews and altars, congregants explore each others’ lives, beliefs, and doubts, as well as, of course, the Bible. Fittingly, Bread & Wine borrows its name from the metaphor Jesus used to describe himself to his closest friends.

Trained in church planting in his native Little Rock, Arkansas, Revard arrived in Portland in 2008 to shape Bread & Wine as a “walkable and bikeable community.” The group that filters through his front door on Wednesday evenings is a casual gathering of friends and neighbors: college students, single mothers, and bankers—a mix of devoted believers, new converts, and curious skeptics. As Caroline breast-feeds the couple’s youngest child, the group dives into an open-ended discussion of the book of Acts, which describes a time when the church was a dynamic and adaptive organism.

Recalling that early apostolic vitality, Revard shrugs off the hard-nosed, conservative intolerance so commonly associated with evangelical churches. “We want to speak to people in their own language,” he says. As with other emerging churches, service takes precedent over theology and politics. It’s embodied by projects like Laundry Love, a monthly gathering at the Alberta Washhouse that provides free laundry and food for the less fortunate—a small act of Christian charity, to be sure, but to Revard and his congregants, it exemplifies the apostle Paul’s reminder to the Romans that God “does not live in temples built by hands.” Bread & Wine aspires to a more metropolitan goal. “Let us love our city,” Revard intones, leading his living room gospel community in a closing prayer. “Let us love Portland.” —MP