I led communion this past Sunday at the church I attend in the late afternoon – Circle of Mercy. I really like public speaking but I still always get nervous. (Fun fact: Some studies say public speaking is a person’s greatest fear.) Maybe if I had been leading worship these past twenty odd years; this would not still happen.
I wish I could lead communion without using notes. I used to be able to do this but my brain seems to freeze now and I can’t remember what I planned to say. We used Psalm 56:1-7 as the call to worship (“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…..”) which is one of my favorites. I often read it when I’m frustrated and angry about having a brain injury and I always feel the Spirit of God as I read.
We also sang one of Mark Siler’s songs as our call to prayer. (Words by Br. Roger of Taize Music, music by Mark.) I love this song and remember when I first moved to Asheville, Mark gave me a C.D. of his music. I vividly remember working with polymer clay in what we call the “art room” in our house and playing this song over and over and over again. Here are the words:
Rest your heart in God, let yourself float on the safe waters,
Living life as it comes, with all the rough weather it may bring.
Give, without counting how many years are left,
Give, not worried about surviving as long as possible.
(repeat first two lines ending with “all the rough weather it may bring.”)
I said, “We know about rough weather, don’t we?” I then spoke of Greta Thunberg’s call for a climate strike but that here, weather wasn’t meant that way. “Every day there’s another troubling story about Trump. Every single day we see injustice. Rough days are ahead which is why we need this table….. We come hungry for God’s love, comfort, and justice. We bring our battered hearts and minds. But more important, we come hungry for transformation. At this table, lives are changed.” I prayed and followed with the words of institution.
When I first started attending Circle of Mercy, I did not take communion if the person presiding didn’t use the “Words of Institution.” In my Presbyterian mind, I believed participating was betraying my ordination. I have come a long way from that belief!
I always liked communion at The Open Door Community in Atlanta because it was different every Sunday and often, it related to the sermon. I feel the same way about communion at Circle of Mercy and at Wednesday’s Haywood Street worship service.
Here, in the Presbytery of Western North Carolina – the Presbyterian Church body consisting of all ministers and representatives from every congregation in a geographical location that meets 4 times a year – we always have communion at our worship service. When I was a member of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, we celebrated the sacrament once each year which seems right to me. Every meeting seems excessive but I do understand this presbytery has a lot of small and the meeting is the place where they can experience it in it’s full meaning.
I have found in the Presbyterian Church this sacrament to often tacked on to a worship service and seems rather rote. This fall Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church is exploring the sacrament and having it every worship service. So far it has been led in interesting and meaningful ways. This gives me a chance to think about the sacrament and how others view it as a ritual. Either way is now okay with me but when I lead, I lead like it is a sacrament.
What are your thoughts about communion? Do you find it meaningful or boring? Feel free to comment here for I’d like to have a conversation about it.