About twenty-five years ago, eight or ten of us gathered. It was most probably on Whidbey Island. The details are sketchy, but I do know the weather was fair, for we met outdoors both days. I am absolutely certain we were strategizing “good trouble,” pushing the United Methodist Church toward full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the denomination. Without a doubt, for it is my most clear memory of the time together, we ended our working get-away with a shared meal.
As we finished our lunch, the table was littered with the sort of clutter found at the end of a meal. Without any preamble, Paul, our group’s convener and a pastor in the UMC, reached for a remaining hunk of bread and said, “When Jesus finished his meal with his friends, he took bread, broke it up into pieces for them all, and said ‘from now on, when you eat, you will remember me.’” Reaching for a half-full bottle of pop, Paul continued, “Jesus also suggested to his friends that drinking together would be a memory of such a time.” Paul had taken us into a communion service.
Our small group, which had laughed, worshipped, and struggled together over tough issues, agreed how appropriate it was to turn the fellowship of the shared meal into a commitment to never forget and to never give up. It wasn’t a formal religious service. But then, neither was the Last Supper.
Most Christians regularly participate in Eucharist, or communion as it is often called. Sometimes it feels rote, often it is deeply meaningful. To me, it always feels like community connection. At Garden Street UMC, our home church, we have a tradition of receiving Holy Communion on the first Sunday of each month.
COVID-19 closed our building mid-March, and our services morphed into YouTube offerings. The decision to have virtual communion was not taken lightly. Churches have rules and the sacrament of communion isn’t to be messed with. The UMC bishops overseeing this area of the country gave their approval and encouragement for inventive ways of creating a communion setting.
Each first Sunday of the month Linda and I rummage through what we have on hand and prepare our communion elements for the service. We listen to our pastor’s words, pray with her, and then, at her invitation, we serve each other the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.
This photo shows our toasted coconut cookie and raspberry lime sparkling water Sunday. Another Sunday we choose hunks of homemade bread and V-8 juice. Those selections could sound flippant, but they weren’t. Just as Jesus chose from the left-overs at hand, just as Paul pulled together scraps from our shared meal, we gather up what’s available and we serve each other with humility and a sense of the sacred. Communion with God, with one another goes live on YouTube.
The word “communion” has secular meaning, too. Communion: an exchange of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the thoughts are of a spiritual nature. Just as our pastors struggled for ways to create a sense of Holy Communion to a dispersed congregation, we have all been grasping for connection. One ache of the 2020 reality is surely our physical separation one from another.
I write, of course, from my lived experience. I’m not a medical worker, immersed in the hell of the pandemic’s ravages. I don’t clerk in a grocery store, or deliver mail, or drive the garbage and recycle trucks. My world doesn’t contain virtual classrooms or Zoom business meetings running back-to-back, all the workday long.
My world is quiet, with a population of two. We’ve lived together for twenty-two years now, so we have practice in co-existing. We’re good at sharing space and also at creating private areas at home.
We’re fine – and, oh, how we miss communion with others! Our dreams are not of exciting world travel post-corona. We dream of dropping in on our neighbors and inviting friends over Drinks with friends, meals with friends, time, just time, with friends.
Zoom is clearly a blessing/curse of 2020. Such a challenge for teachers. Tedium for administrators and managers glued to their desk chairs for hours on end. And yet, such great joy to see friends, to talk with family, to have a walking-about tour of new homes.
Zoom can even create communion. The two of us have been part of a poetry group for the past five years. Until March, we met one Saturday a month. Since March we’ve met every Saturday. Some alchemy has touched the core group of six, and we have found communion with one another in ways unknown before. I don’t understand, but I cherish the connection.
This topic came to me Thanksgiving week. Our dining room table, which can seat twelve if everyone squishes, was set for two. Communion was much on my mind. The meal this year was not less than. It was, instead, differently more. More aware of our blessings, filled with deeper and richer gratefulness. Rich with thanksgiving
Thank you, reader. I don’t understand the dynamics, but writing these words truly feels like communion.