After filling—and refilling—thousands of communion trays, an unsung servant reflects on his quiet ministry
By Ann Jayne
More than 30 years ago, John Davis began a mission of service.
At least once a month since the mid-1980s, Davis helped prepare the communion meal for the Edmond Church of Christ.
In Matthew 26, Mark 14 and Luke 22, Jesus sends Peter and John to prepare the Passover meal. This would be Jesus’ last Passover on Earth as he would soon be crucified. It was at this time that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper — a way for us, some 2000 years later, to remember and honor his death. And just as earthly hands prepared the Passover meal of lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread and wine, so, too, must someone at every church throughout the world prepare the Lord’s Supper.
Here at Edmond, that person often has been Davis.
The work for the next Lord’s Supper begins the previous Sunday after evening worship: Thirty-seven bread trays and 37 juice trays are used for the first and second services. The trays are washed and dried. New juice cups are inserted. The trays are placed on carts and covered.
The following Saturday, the trays are checked to ensure they are still clean. Then they are filled with bread and juice, ready to go for the first service.
Each juice tray holds 40 cups. So 1,480 cups are filled with grape juice! (That’s 76,960 cups per year for the first service alone!)
The trays are reset for the second and evening services. Then the process begins all over again.
After moving back to Oklahoma from New York, John Davis and his late wife, Phyllis, placed membership at the Edmond church because it was close to their house. Occasionally, Phyllis helped John prepare the communion trays. But mostly, John did the preparations. “She had too many kids to take care of,” he said.
John and Phyllis Davis raised four children: Todd, who lives in Oklahoma City; Rance, of Sherman, Texas; Jill Beggs, of Norman, Okla.; and Jason, who still lives in Edmond. The Davises’ 10 grandchildren range in age from 5 to 19.
Edmond executive minister Kent Risley fondly recalls spending time with his Uncle John and Aunt Phyllis, including a summer he lived with them. Their house was on a street named Easy Street. “So I love telling others I spent one summer living on Easy Street.”
But times weren’t always going to be easy. Phyllis Davis died on Feb. 26, 2007. John Davis had quietly cared for Phyllis until her death, like a husband is supposed to do.
“John took such good care of Aunt Phyllis during her health struggles,” Risley said. “And then when she died unexpectedly, he showed that same love and care for his mother who lived with them until her death,”
Davis said it was difficult for a while without Phyllis. “But it was important to continue to serve.”
Many times, our services to the Lord have ways of finding us. For Davis, preparing the Lord’s Supper was no exception. “I think it selected me. It was a simple request. I was asked to do it, and I did it. I continued to do it because it was important work for the church.”
Davis said he enjoyed this service because not everyone was willing to do it. And making sure that someone prepared the communion trays was a big task. He had to step in when it wasn’t done. “Doing something important to the church was gratifying,” he said.
And it was also not without mishaps. After all, grape juice is involved.
“Of course, we can confess now that there were a few spots on the rug that needed to be cleaned from time to time,” he said. “One time, a big stack fell off of the cart, making a pretty big mess at the old building. And quite a few shirts were lost to stains, but all in all, the accidents were few and far between.”
Davis retired from his job at IBM after 30 years and also CompSource after almost 15 years. He likes to work Sudoku puzzles, do physical labor in the yard and watch sports, particularly the Sooners and Thunder. And recently, in October 2016, Davis “retired” from his service of preparing the Lord’s Supper. “I liked helping in a task that was important, regular, and I could contribute my time and energy towards.”
Galatians 5:13 tells us to serve one another through love. John Davis has quietly done this for more than 30 years.
Risley said when he thinks of the many people who quietly serve, or have served the Lord, without any special recognition or fanfare, he thinks of the service his Uncle John provided. “What beautiful, quiet service from a man who loves both his family and church family. John is a testimony of faithful Christian service.”
Honor Jesus Christ above all else for his sacrifice. But when you take communion, say a prayer of thanks for those who prepared it in love. And whose shirts bear a few grape juice stains.