The idea of having communion while we are doing worship exclusively online was an easy theological jump.
I quickly wrote up an explanation for the session. Essentially, who I am to say that the Spirit cannot move from where I proclaim the words of institution to the homes of my congregants? Would being together be ideal? Yes. But in these difficult times we need small reminders of God’s grace everywhere we can get them. This tiny meal sustains us on the journey. We embrace taking what we have in our homes and use a variety of elements to break bread together virtually. Goldfish crackers, pancakes, orange juice, water and so much more have become our communion elements around our dining room tables, on our back porches, at the desk.
Last Saturday I spent the morning delivering worship bags that included bread and small containers of grape juice along with the tiny communion cups we are used to. After five months of virtual worship, I was longing to partake of one loaf, so I carefully broke apart a bag of dinner rolls and put them into individual bags. Those tiny cups we have not held in our hands in months have become important parts of our ritual together. Sometimes we need tangible things — to really feel them in our hands, to let the Spirit blow through our elements and feed our souls.
We miss each other terribly. We long to gather around the table again, to sing together, to shake hands, to do all those things that make church feel like church. While we remain apart, the needs around us are growing. We have a small food shelf that serves people with emergency food needs — and the need has grown. We have a community garden that donates its produce to larger feeding ministries — and the need is growing exponentially. We have a group of volunteers who regularly makes salads and protein bars for people who do not currently have a home — and that need is growing too. We are watching people lose jobs, homes and businesses they put their whole lives into. The need is growing all around us.
I have watched as my people have risen to the occasion, filling up our food shelf, gardening in smaller distant groups to stay safe, figuring out how to prepare food for an area homeless ministry. Our feeding ministries are expanding during this pandemic. It is a blessing to see the creative ways folks are finding to work together with masks on, six feet apart, with gloves and with hearts full of love. So often we have heard about churches being closed. The congregation I serve with never closed; people have been working nonstop to do the work they are called to. Sure, the building is locked up and empty for the most part; our worship is happening all over town instead of in the sanctuary. We have never stopped being the church. I would be so bold as to say we have grown in answering the call to be the church!
I suspect the need is only going to increase in the coming months as this pandemic and the economic impacts continue to grow. I pray that the congregation will continue to be able to expand their feeding ministries, that we will be able to continue in our support of larger feeding ministries and that we will find sustenance for the journey in a tiny sacred meal of bread and juice. These are extraordinarily difficult times to live through. It is getting tiresome to stay apart, to encounter the pain and brokenness of the world and to be overwhelmed by the needs around us. I pray that through out these long months we will be reminded of grace in the most ordinary of experiences. In bread at our tables, in protein bars, upon cutting open a fresh tomato, in a sip of juice, a cup of coffee, cold lemonade, in these ordinary foods there lies a powerful reminder of grace. May we have hearts and eyes to see it there upon the table before us.
REBECCA GRESHAM-KESNER is pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Medford, New Jersey. Outside of church and family life, you can find her in nature, finding fun ways to be creative or asking awkwardly deep questions of people she just met.