by Rev. Beth Givens
This week I celebrated the sacrament of Holy Communion twice in 24 hours. That’s not normal on a non-Sunday, and for a good United Methodist like me, I’m up to celebrating 4 times this week.
Seems we are needing a lot of Jesus.
Tuesday night, when I celebrated, it was a part of Election Day Communion. Election Day Communion is a movement among churches of different denominations to draw people together amidst the divisiveness of an election season here in the United States. We offered Election Day Communion in our congregation.
I celebrated at the table in my white robe, given to me by my two daughters about 6 years ago, and my white stole. The altar was far back from the people, right under the large hanging cross. With the lights in the sanctuary full on, I lifted the freshly purchased bread which gave to my touch. It had been carefully scored by one of the servants who prepares the table for our congregation. When I lifted it to break, it tore smoothly and easily.
“The body of Christ broken for you.”
I was saying the liturgy into my lapel mic as I picked up the pitcher and poured the juice. It poured smoothly and easily into a deep silver chalice, barely making a sound, not one anyone could have heard. And we shared at table, and prayed for reconciliation and peace, and all were fed.
Wednesday at mid-morning, my colleague on staff who prepares our Wednesday prayer service, texted saying she thought we should have silent communion. Silent communion? OK, felt right. Silent communion. Wait. How does that work?
It was a busy day, being with people who were holding a lot, finding support from one another. I slipped into the sanctuary from another meeting. No bright lights tonight. Dim lights with lots of candles, as is our usual Wednesday tradition. The table was set.
When it came time for silent communion, I stood. This time I was in street clothes and stocking feet. The table was down on the floor, simple, bread and cup surrounded by candles waiting to be lit in petition. The cross was behind and above me.
Without saying a word, I lifted the glass orb of water which held a floating candle. I lifted it before the people, and turned and lifted it to the cross, proclaiming God’s mighty acts throughout history. I replaced the Christlight carefully, and lifted the bread. This bread was from our “food pantry stash,” a donation from Panera last week, frozen for this week and just thawed this afternoon. It was one of those small sourdough round loaves in which they put soup in at Panera, if you go the luxury route.
It was hard, and I could barely get a grip into it as I went to break it. I had to use strength, lots of strength, as I faced the cross and lifted it over my head, tearing it violently, like it felt like hearts and spirits had been torn.
I picked up the small clay pitcher to pour juice into the clay chalice, and it made noise. The sanctuary was silent tonight and every drop echoed as it spilled into the cup. Small droplets splashed my face. I held it to the people, to the cross.
“My blood poured out for you.”
As I moved my hands to invoke the Spirit, it felt like a gesture of healing and hope.
Another night. Quieter.
But the same prayers. Reconciliation and peace.
The bread tasted a bit tangier, and the juice seeped into it faster, and all were fed.
Be kind and gentle with one another, brothers and sisters.
Rev. Beth Givens is the pastor at Welborne United Methodist Church in Richmond, Virginia.