Monday, February 22, 2010

Community and Communion

I have written, more than once, about how important community is to me. In spite of any criticism I have regarding my church congregation, I have tried to re-emphasize that it is my community. My small group is my community. For so long, my life lacked any sort of community, so I especially treasure the community I have now.

Another thing I appreciate about my congregation is the weekly observance of Communion. I'm not particularly sacramental, in that I don't find a mysterious, spiritual meaning in the "sacraments." However, I love taking Communion each week. Growing up, Communion was only observed, at most, once per quarter.

The way we take Communion at my current church is also special, to me. In the religious tradition in which I was raised, Communion was only observed, at most, once per quarter--four times per year. It was administered to us, as we sat in our pew and passed a silver tray of wafers and individual cups (that look oddly similar to mini shot glasses). It was such a passive process.

College was the first time I experienced Communion by intinction. I recall being moved as I watched nearly a thousand members of my university community stand up, walk to the servers, and partake of the elements. The visibility of the community was overwhelming, to me, at that time.

This is the same way we observe Communion at my local church, and I love it. I love witnessing each person going forward, holding out their hands to receive the bread, and dipping it into the wine. I love watching some make the sign of the cross. I love the active role of Communion, where people get up, move, and take the body and blood of Jesus.

I view Communion as the "common meal." As everyone gets up and goes forward, they are eating the meal, to which they have been invited. The invitation is open--no special rules. You must only come and eat.

There are images throughout the Bible where people are eating together. It was a social activity; it was an activity that showed friendship and hospitality as well. I appreciate how the congregation, the Body of Christ, gets up and moves as we all come to eat, together. I love the sense of community I feel when I see all off the people coming forward, and the inclusion I feel when I hold out my hands, and am given "the body of our Lord Jesus Christ" and then"the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ."

I am not a pro on eucharistic theology--whether or not, or how, Christ's real presence is in the Communion elements. However, what I do know is that the community is seen and strengthened when taking the common meal, the Lord's Supper, Communion.


  1. Your description of your practice of Communion could definitely be called "spiritual." Perhaps you should broaden your definition of the term?

    Good post!

  2. I was thinking that same thing. Perhaps by spiritual I meant "spiritual mysticism" or something--like something "magical" happens (via the Spirit).

    Thanks for the comment, though. :)

  3. I agree about church-as-community, which mine is. I also agree about weekly communion, which my church does not observe (we're a first-Sunday-of-the-month church). Because of my experience with a particular minister a long time ago, I was absent from the church for twenty years. I found my way back first through the Metropolitan Community Church. At MCC, communion is truly a sacrament. This is a ministry primarily (but not exclusively) by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Because so many LGBT people have been deeply wounded by the church--as I was--communion is often a stumbling block. At MCC, there is a person who greets each person coming forward; this may be as an individual, with a friend, or with a life partner/spouse. The greeting involves an embrace, a prayer, and often tears. It involves calling the communicant(s) by name. Then, after this moment of reconciliation, the recipient moves on to receive the elements by intinction from the servers. Although I found my way back to Presbyterianism, I miss this intimacy in communion. I wish others would be bold enough to adopt it.