Musings, On Conversations about Communion During a Pandemic: September 28th 2020
Never did I ever imagine that I’d be having conversations about communion grab bags, physically distanced communion cups or how long the tongs should be for serving the bread?!? And all I can do is smile and laugh, and remember that what we’re seeking, is to celebrate and maintain the sacrament of community, while keeping that same community, and the larger community safe. I say this after much reflection.
To me, first and foremost, Communion is a celebration and a symbol of God’s grace to us. Like Manna in the wilderness, Communion comes to us as gift. The blessing of food freely given. That’s why I always encourage folk to receive the bread with cupped hands. When the Hebrew people ate Manna in the wilderness, they found that the Manna was always enough for the day. There was not enough to store up for years and years. But they found that there was always enough blessing for that one day.
And that is also the way God’s grace comes to us too, is it not? We are not promised storehouses of grain…lives without struggle. But we are promised strength for each day….food and sustenance one day at a time. That’s what Communion symbolizes….our daily bread…..what we need in this moment, given as the free grace of God.
I think I was in my second year at AST before I first truly understood this myself. I remember one time I had gone to communion in the Chapel – one of the rare occasions that we celebrated communion with all three traditions present: United, Roman Catholic and Anglican. I remember as well, it was during a time when I was feeling particularly down about myself.
When I received the elements that day, the person serving me tore off a humungous chunk of bread. I mean, it seemed like it must have been half the loaf. I took it quick and dunked it in the cup and took the elements together. And then I put it in my mouth, and began to chew. And the piece of bread was so big that the juice started dribbling out the front of my mouth.
Now, I know some of you might see this as a terrible bit of sacrilege. But I saw it as symbol that my cup was overflowing, that the grace of God was indeed present – for that day. And in my laughter at paying attention to the sign of that moment, I gave thanks to God for the gift of all grace.
Communion is a means to experience that overflowing and ever-present grace of God.
If I had to say what else communion is, I’d also say that it’s broken bread, given to a broken world.
Although many of us are uncomfortable with the imagery of Christ’s broken body, there is also the sense in which the brokenness of the communion bread can also symbolize for us both the broken nature of our world, and God’s solidarity with that brokenness too.
Finally, communion is also, to me, an act of hope and inclusion too. It’s a representation of God’s grace….it’s a symbol of solidarity with the broken world…but it’s also, finally, an act of hope and inclusion.
And so, our preparations for Worldwide Communion Sunday, as bizarre as they may seem with conversations about communion grab bags, distanced communion cups and bread served with tongs, are done in solidarity with and service to the world, broken asunder by a pandemic – proclaiming the hope that God is present in the brokenness to bring healing and hope.
Today I am in the office until noon and then heading to the shore to close up the trailer for the season. This evening I have an online meeting with some colleagues.
Tuesday will see me in the office again where I will welcome the Preacher’s Help Group at 10AM via Zoom followed by few pastoral visits. On Tuesday evening Affirm will offer their second Kitchen Sink gathering via Zoom.
Wednesday morning will see me in the office again and at 11AM you can see me Live as I offer Wednesday Wonder (and Wandering) with the Psalms on Facebook Live. In the afternoon I’ll be doing pastoral visits at the hospital.
On Thursday I’ll be working from home finishing up the liturgy and reflection for Sunday. Friday will have me at the Music Barn for a wedding rehearsal and the in the afternoon followed by the wedding on Saturday. Join with me in congratulation Jimmy Ward and Stephanie Quinn as they join their lives together!
And on Sunday I look forward to being with folk at Upper Sackville at 9AM and Sackville at 11AM as we celebrate Worldwide Communion! If you are planning on joining us in-person please have a look at one or both of these videos so you will know what to expect: USUC-COVID and/or SUC-COVID
Of course, the 11AM gathering will be live-streamed on Facebook Live and if you are planning to join us you are encouraged to have a candle, and bread and juice ready so you may take part fully from wherever you are!