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  • Writer's pictureErin

Do you remember your first communion?

I do.

I was probably thirteen years old. I had just joined the Presbyterian church in my hometown and subsequently joined everything else I could within the church, including the chancel choir. I’m sure to the adults in the congregation it seemed like I was suddenly everywhere. But on this particular Sunday I was sitting in the choir pews, absorbed and enfolded into the sea of blue robes of the alto section around me. I felt as if I was tucked into a nest.

I was still pretty new to church at this time, so suffice it to say that I didn’t always know exactly what was happening in the service. I was getting the hang of following the bulletin but still didn’t know what every piece of the traditional service meant. Luckily the ladies of my alto section were always willing to answer my confused questions, in hushed whispers, so I could participate with everyone else. So when this big gold plate with bread started making its way through our pew, I turned to them to see what exactly there was to be done with this thing.

For the first time in my inquiries, there was no whispered response when I motioned to the plate and looked confused. Instead, there was a very notable pause. It was a long pause. It was so long that the sopranos turned around in their pew ahead of us to see what was going on. In that moment I could catch the eyes of the adults around me and they were all assessing the eyes of the others. There was a whole discussion happening amongst the leaders of my church, with no words said, about this curious child who was encountering the bread and the cup for the first time in her life, and the nature of the bread and cup themselves.

For years I have thought about the questions passing between their eyes like fast, winged things lighting on tree branches. If she has no knowledge of what communion means, can she receive it? How much does she need to know, or how much can we tell her about this massive story in this singular moment to justify her receiving it? How much can any of us ever truly grasp the gift of communion so much so that we might earn its blessing? Can we ever earn it? And the list goes on and on. It can be as deep a theological dive as you please.

Thankfully, one of my precious grandmother altos decided that these questions were very much beside the point. Or maybe it was all of them all at once, answered suddenly of one mind? Because just like that the pause was over and soft, wrinkled hands were beckoning me: take some, take some. The same with the tiny cups of juice that followed. The feeling of actually taking the communion is perhaps too mystical a story for a newsletter, but suffice it to say that it had a massive impact on me.

Later on I would come to understand communion more fully, which is another credit to the elders who raised me in that church. But this very first communion for me was distinctly marked not just by its occasion but also by its nature. What my adult guides essentially impressed upon me, probably without meaning to, was that communion is something we do that is not without implications. Communion has meaning.

But what is that meaning?

What is its meaning for you and also what is its meaning for our community?

This is exactly what we are discussing in our current series, Crowded Table: What’s Going on at the Lord’s Supper? We're meeting Monday nights at 7pm EST, onsite and online. We’re digging into this practice like we never have before and we're having a blast.

See you there!


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