I've been thinking a lot about communion the past month. At Assembly North, the small worship group that began meeting this past September, we spent several Sundays looking at some of the biblical stories of table fellowship, and the way that Jesus repeatedly takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to his followers.
Our conversations culminated in sharing communion together on Sunday a week ago -- passing the bread of life around the circle, coming forward for the cup of the new covenant, and then after our worship time, gathering, as we always do, for table fellowship and a simple soup and bread meal.
And afterwards there is the communion of washing and drying, which strikes me s a modern version of washing one another's feet.
Then yesterday I lead communion at Assembly, where it was our small group's turn to lead worship. GC1, our group, has been growing and recently became two groups, but we worked together for this worship time, with sixteen people contributing in various ways -- leading worship, leading singing, reading scripture, leading children's time, serving communion.
It was a very different setting for communion, with nearly 200 people gathered for worship, about ten times the number at Assembly North. Instead of a circle, people came forward in lines to receive their bit of tortilla and to dip it in the cup, or to receive an additional blessing.
In my introductory comments, I reminisced about the days when Assembly felt the only proper way to celebrate communion was by gathering in circles of 12 or so, passing the bread and cup, and ending with hugs or a pat on the back for those beside you. I told how my perspective on that had been transformed by a story shared in the community -- years ago, JR Burkholder returned from a trip to England, where he had participated in worship at one of the great cathedrals. Going forward in a procession of strangers for communion, he felt part of a grand procession of Christians in many different places, in many different centuries, all going forward for communion.
We come forward in lines, but picture a gigantic circle, and our communion lines as only a tiny bit of that great arc -- so tiny that we have the optical illusion that they are lines. Really, we are coming forward as part of that great circle of the communion of saints, across time, around the world, down through the ages.
The communion celebrations at Assembly North and at Assembly a week later were quite different, but both were good, and both celebrated community and discipleship.
I meant to get a photo of the communion table at Assembly, with the bowl of tortillas that Alfonso made by hand, but in the rush of pre-service details, that didn't happen.
I did get a photo of our Surprise Luncheon gathering right afterwards at the Kurtz's, who graciously hosted not only the guests that had been assigned to their home, but the guests of another host who had an unexpected family emergency. And that too was a good time of table fellowship, as we shared soup and bread, laughter and story telling, building relationships.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"