A MESSAGE FROM DANE
After 3 weeks of services, I am pleased with how things have gone. Obviously, it is not Church as we have known it, but it has still been a blessing to worship together. Our plan has been to reopen gradually, initially with simple morning prayer services. This past week we added Children’s ministry and eventually we hope to add communion. With all these plans we are keeping a close eye on what is happening in our broader community and we will assess the situation on a week to week basis.
Early on in the pandemic, as Churches were closed, it may have seemed that in the season of lent there was something spiritually consistent with the loss of our usual worship routines. At that time, people were talking about a eucharistic fast, a spiritual discipline some Christians observe in the season of lent in preparation for Easter. As Easter came and went however, I began to hear it described as a eucharistic famine. This was not a choice after all, Lent was over, and still there was no end in sight.
I certainly sympathize with those who have said they really missed receiving the communion elements on a regular basis. Though it can sometimes be difficult to say what it is we are missing in particular. In some respect, we miss the routine of the eucharist: the prayer and music associated with the celebration. We miss rising from our seats and approaching the altar. We miss the contemplative ambiance of those moments, and even just sitting quietly while others file past us and then return to their pews.
There is everything that surrounds the event and there is the actual receiving of communion itself. Here too, it can be hard to say exactly what we miss. It is not as though we have been without Jesus this whole time. He has been with us in the pandemic, especially in our struggles and fears. But something has been missing and it is often in the moments when we are without that we come to understand more deeply what it is we long for.
The sacrament of communion is a mystery in the theological sense. We do not know exactly how it works and what it does. We are told in Scripture that in receiving the elements we are drawn close to the life of Jesus given for us, his death and resurrection. It is a tangible expression of this spiritual reality. Jesus’ life was not given for us alone but for our community and for the world, and for that reason the sacrament holds a prominent place in our common worship. We are members in the Body of Christ, visible and invisible, throughout all times and places, and what holds us together is the gift of Jesus’ own life.
It is good to take some time and consider the place of the eucharist in our lives, and we will have our own thoughts on the matter. Fast or famine, the last number of months have altered our worship and devotion in ways we could not have expected. Though by God’s grace, perhaps this pandemic can serve to deepen our understanding and commitment to the practices of the Christian life.