A few weeks ago, our church started celebrating the sacrament of Communion over Zoom. I set up the meeting, then led the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. Participants ate and drank their own elements in their homes.
I’m not writing to defend or debate the theology of partaking the Lord’s Supper over a video conference call.
I’m writing because… last week, I forgot all about the call!
Even though I had written the Communion prayer earlier that very day, the appointment completely slipped my mind. I had left my phone upstairs and realized my mistake well after the scheduled time — and only after I received a half-dozen text messages wondering what was wrong!
I was quick to text apologies to these people, but my wife (also a pastor) encouraged me to come clean in an email to the congregation. She has read a lot of Brené Brown’s theory of courageous vulnerability. Still, I hesitated.
I hate to make mistakes. This one was particularly embarrassing!
I eventually agreed it was crucial to share the truth.
I told the congregation the reason I forgot was that ever since my children have started virtual school, every day is overwhelming.
In confessing this burden, I didn’t want people to worry. I assured them that my family would find our rhythm. And that I was committed to weekly Wednesday Communion because I knew it was life-giving for many of our members.
But they needed to know the truth about their pastor’s life. His very human life.
When I was a young(er) pastor, I asked an older minister colleague what he was most looking forward to about retirement. He immediately responded, “Being a human again.” He quickly tried to laugh it off, but I knew he wasn’t joking. I could read the weariness written all over his face.
I would love to serve in my current call for a long time. I would love to raise my family here with the church’s support.
But I won’t last long pretending that I am not human.
The word “human” shares the same root as “humility.” I need to be honest with the church and myself about my limitations, my shortcomings and my cringeworthy mistakes. For I want my parishioners to share their vulnerabilities with me, including the times when they feel overwhelmed and burned out from exhaustion.
Brené Brown’s research proves that vulnerability can build trust. Sometimes having a human moment can bring out the humanity in others.
Between the pandemic, the economy and the upcoming election, this is an overwhelming time for many people. I think the most helpful theological position is not whether it is efficacious to break bread together over a video conference, but that we are all broken and in need of grace.
We are all human together.
ANDREW TAYLOR-TROUTMAN is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the author of “Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems.” He and his wife, who is also a pastor, are rattled and blessed by parenting three young children.