Thursday, April 06, 2006

Disaster!

Well, not really, but I've been in full drama queen mode for about 12 hours now. We've had tears.

You see, last night I found out that I apparently am the only one who believes that it is important to do weekly Eucharist at our new church. Okay, that's probably an exaggeration. I am wearing my drama queen pants, after all (literally - I really do have drama queen pants and they are on).

Basically, when we were doing principles for worship, I recommended Scripture and Eucharist every week. That's it - all I asked. And the Scripture made it, but not everyone agrees that we need eucharist weekly. Including our leader. Which troubles me. A lot.

I think it's made me realize just how crucial sacramental theology has become to me. I might just draw the Christian/non-Christian worship line at celebrating the Table. It's really hard for me to think of a good, Biblical, theologically-sound reason not to do it.

But that's what I have you for, right? So if you were a person who wouldn't darken the door of a church (which is our target audience), would the Eucharist freak you out (do you know what it is? Do you want to?)? Would it make a difference if you were invited to join the meal? Would it make a difference if it were a full meal instead of mumbo-jumbo over bread and wine? Do you want us to put on a nice show with music and a talk or do you want to see the Christians throw down with our super life-changing transformation rituals? Are you curious about what we do that we call "sacrament," and why? Or could you care less, and it will make you not want to come watch?

One friend said the explanation he's heard over and over is that the Eucharist loses its "specialness" if it is "overdone." I said to him, "So you want to keep Jesus away from me so that I'll want him more?" See, to me, that's just mean.

Anyway, I should explain that the reason for all the drama isn't just my own liturgical nerdiness, isn't just my theology or my ecclesiology. Or even my ideas about salvation and ethics, both of which I believe are inexorably tied up in Communion. My drama stems from my heart breaking from the idea that I might attend a church where I don't get to have communion every week.

You see, I went to half-assed crap worship for 25 years of my life. I've been there, done that. Been to the church that tells only part of the story. Missed out on the signs and the symbols and, for the love of God, the MYSTERY. And I don't want to go back to that!!! I finally found a place where I am literally nourished on God, I ingest Jesus, week after week. And it's changed me. It's made a huge difference. In my worship and in how I live and in what I'm doing with my life - for crying out loud, I'm at seminary! A thought that never entered my mind prior to becoming Episcopalian!!

And if it is taken away...weeks when I don't have it, I feel emptier. I miss my spiritual food. I need my Jesus. And that is where I find God. In the sacrament. Not in the music, although God's there. Not in the Scripture, although God's there too. Not even in the preaching. No. God meets us in the sacraments, because that is why God inspired them.

I mean, we've had these wonderful access points - these windows to the supernatural - for 2,000 years. They work. Not every time, no, and not for every one. Sure. I admit that. But over time, they change you. You become more moral. You internalize the story of God. You see your neighbor differently. You see your church differently. It really is absolutely vital to formation as a disciple. I don't know how we'll be empowered to go out into the world and make a difference and spread the love of Jesus without having had our fix!

Yeah, I said fix. I might as well admit I'm talking about it like a drug. Sorry, it's hard not to. I'm a total addict.

Hi, my name is Stasi, and I'm a body-and-blood-of-Jesus-addict. Eucharistaholic.

You see, I think they might have some good reasoning. I think they might believe that Eucharist puts people off, or is not hospitable. So fine, don't fence the table - most Episcopal churches don't anyway, these days. Or make it an agape feast, full-on meal, and after supper, bless some bread & wine and we'll take it specially.

There's got to be a way to remove baggage surrounding the Eucharist. If it has baggage, we are sunk. If our Table (and Bath) have gotten to the point of inhospitality or irrelevancy or apathy, then we are truly doomed. Where will we find Jesus?

I know that any given week, half or more of the people taking Communion anywhere don't really know what they are doing. And maybe they're not getting anything out of it - maybe they don't meet God. But maybe they just need to be taught about what it is they are doing. Maybe the solution isn't to chuck it, but to make it better. Show people a hospitable, vital, relevant, engaging Eucharist.

Or maybe there is another way to get the same point across. It just seems a crying shame if we can't tell the story of God using the tools Jesus gave us. The way it's worked for so long. It was the first way of worship - or rather, the earliest way we know of. Gathering, Word, Table, Dismissal. It is by far the most historical and the most common way of doing Christian assembly.

Now I'm not against progression. Obviously. I hope it goes without saying. I believe God is showing us new things all the time - God's revealed new ways of thinking about slavery and women and gay and lesbian sisters and brothers. Yes. God is progressively revealing Godself to us, and I would even say, God learns more about us as we learn about God. We do this beautiful dance and we grow closer every year, second, millinea.

(*sniffle* we dance at communion *boo hoo*)

Well I have to get on with my day. But that is what is up. I cried hard and long last night. I'm pretty down today. I can't fathom going to a church without Eucharist. But the reason I am so distraught is because I am already so engaged with Thad's. It has gotten into my system. I want to be there - I want to be called there. I want to do my ordination process there and my internship there and I want to be part of the work. And so I grieve because I might be called to a place that doesn't love the sacrament, or I grieve because I might not be called there after all and that hurts a lot too. Just one more misunderstanding.

I feel not unlike the time I was rejected from the chapel thing. I have this beautiful gift of the liturgy that I just want to give people, I want to share with them, I want to teach them about. It changes your life. It teaches you how to live - how to love - how to be moral - how to find God. I just want to share it. And people keep slamming the door.

I don't know what's next. And that's fine. I need to throw myself into school anyway. It's already getting to be challenging. I'll just have to wait a little until I can have a beer with Jimmy and find out what he's thinking. I'll feel better when I know the reasoning. Then I can either answer it, ponder it, agree or disagree, educate myself or others...then I can do something.

And then I'll know whether this place is for me. Part of me thinks it would be a relief for it not to be (I could take a job making actual money, for instance)...but then there's that part that exploded when I just began to consider the possibility of leaving the team.

Whatever is in store? I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you. The Lord can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. So trust, and humility, are the order of the day. God, I need humility, and guidance, and I need to trust.

And I need drama queen just to be what's on my pants, not what's in my life.

12 comments:

Rachel said...

Maybe you are called there because of the way you balance the other impulses and desires? I can see this being really difficult for a while as you guys figure out what you're doing and what matters to you and why, but -- as I've been realizing in looking back at my early history as a Jewish liturgical-modification geek -- the process of negotiating with others about how we pray can be as fruitful as (or more fruitful than) the words or practices we actually wind up using. Something about finding God in the tension between what I want and what you want, and how we negotiate what we want together...

JTB said...

Having grown up in a tradition where one of the distinguishing marks is a weekly Communion, I can very well understand the emotional component to contemplating a non-weekly sacrament.

Perhaps it might help to suggest to the group actually talking to some "unchurched" people specifically about this. I have a feeling that a lot of people have some idea what Communion is, and would not at all feel freaked out by it. It seems like this would be a fairly easy thing to find out.

It might also be the case that fewer people than we assume would be offended by a "closed" Communion. This would also be something to ask people's opinions about before making a decision (although of course there are theological decisions to be made here as well). I have watched people decline to participate out of preference (reverence?), even when it was clear that they were welcome to the table.

Don't give up. I think rachel's comment is right on.

revabi said...

I have been following your writings for sometime now. This last year we started communion on a weekly basis at our little United Methodist Church in Wadley, Al. It has become a very meaningful service and is well attended. You may recall that John Wesley believed in regular communion, because he saw it as a means of grace. I grew up in a tradition that is wasn't a sacrament, but a rememberance. I too have grown to appreciate the weekly sacrament, and it hasn't grown old. If anything the Holy Spirit keeps moving in our midst. You keep up your faith and stand ehlping them understand the importance of the sacrament. It has brought people into the church who had stopped going or weren't going anywhere. Prayer for you.... Abi

Caelius said...

"One friend said the explanation he's heard over and over is that the Eucharist loses its "specialness" if it is "overdone." I said to him, "So you want to keep Jesus away from me so that I'll want him more?" See, to me, that's just mean."

One way of reading certain parts of Hebrews is to see the Eucharist as being continually offered in Heaven. In that light, I see that it's hard for it to be overdone (unless we do so it much that it isolates us from the world.)

I am Caelius Spinator and I am a Eucharistoholic.

Rivikah said...

I'm afraid that a weekly Eucharist might keep me away and I am by no means unchurched. It would depend on a lot of things though. At the least how the service was advertised and how much pressure there was to participate in the Eucharist portion of it would make a big difference.

A lot of that is my baggage but...Yes, a weekly Eucharist has the potential to keep people away. Especially if your meeting is advertised as a Eucharist service.

The Feminarian said...

But I don't understand WHY. Can you tell me exactly what it is about Eucharist that bothers you? I simply can't think of a reason that it would offend a person. And pressure to participate...I just don't get it. Why would it be bad to participate? Why wouldn't you want to? Why would pressure be unwelcome - or feel like pressure at all?

I am not trying to be difficult, I genuinely can't understand why anyone would want to stay away from the Table. To me it is nothing but life-giving and affirming. What is there about it that troubles you?

landon said...

I recently switched churches and the current one a) doesn't celebrate weekly and b) passes out chiclets and a shot glass. Drives me nuts! I love me some intinction - I love the fact that I have to get up and walk my sinful ass down the aisle.

Here's what I hate about postmodernity - the constant fear that we are going to scare people, or make them feel uncomfortable, as they sit through our rituals. You're kidding me! Ritual abuse is one thing, but watering down the blood of Christ? Come on.

My friend Chip, who works in the Office of Theology and Worship for the PC(USA) has a great evangelistic idea: "What we should do is tell people 'Hey, we're doing some real freaky shit in here. Wanna come?'" I love it.

All right, enough random commenting.

Rivikah said...

It's not really offence. It is troubling though and discomforting. For me it's a combination of what I'm used to and what Communion has come to mean.

There's a bit of a personal story, I won't tell it all but it goes kind of like this: I grew up in a church where Communion was closed. That's the first part of it. I'm used to Communion being limited only to members and would feel odd taking it in a setting where I don't know what the policy is. If that was all there was to it it wouldn't be a big deal.

There's also a hint of knowing what to expect. I've never been to a church that did communion at every service and I have this idea that it makes the service structure fundamentally different. It certainly tends to be advertised differently and I have certainly passed over churches because I couldn't puzzle out exactly what they were doing at what time. Walking into a church for the first time is hard enough without having the added complication of being pretty sure you're walking into something completely different from what you're used to. (This one shouldn't be a big deal with your situation. It sounds like you're spending a lot of time figuring how to make people comfortable with walking in)

Because I grew up with a closed Communion it feels somehow right to have it be closed. But I (for various reasons) have never made the public profession of my faith that was required for my church to allow (or encourage, more recently their ideas on the matter have changed somewhat) me to take Communion. Because it seems right to me that some kind of public profession should be made before beginning to take communion, I do not take it even when I am in churches that see no reason why I should not. This is partially a matter of having an attachment to the beliefs of my childhood and partially a matter of wanting to experience Communion without any kind of outside pressure. I don't want it to be something I just do because I don't know how to refuse. Since I sit out, Communion can be kind of awkward. Eventually I hope to be able to do a public profession of faith and lift this condition on myself. I don't know yet if it will change the last part.

The last part of it is that because of the circumstances around my not already having done a public profession of faith, Communion (or rather, not participating in Communion) has frequently been the low point of my week. When the community comes together to celebrate Communion, it frequently brings back the feeling of being excluded from the community, of not really belonging.

As an aside:
I was once part of a small Bible study group and one week we discussed what Communion meant to us in groups of three or four. In the group I ended up in, every single one of us said that in our experiences Communion was frequently a reminder of the various divisions and dissonances in our churches and in our relationships.

This is not to make any judgement about Communion itself, it's a powerful ritual that should be a major part of Christian worship. Perhaps it's because it's so powerful that it becomes the focus of so many people's baggage. All I'm really saying is that with a weekly Communion you would probably keep me away. But maybe I'm not in the target audience.

Not all of this is rational. I hope it's at least coherent.

The Feminarian said...

Landon, I LOVE IT. Thanks for a great laugh. I think the freaky shit line should be on the door of our church.

Reminds me of a great quote I have from one of the people at church of the apostles: "Our church isn't shitty." We decided that could be their campaign slogan.

To Rivikah, have you ever thought about trying Communion as a way of making your profession of faith? There are no requirements at the table - it's purely supposed to be an expression of thanksgiving for what JESUS has done. YOU don't have to do anything! You're free!

Eucharist means thanksgiving - it's supposed to be a party! Which I why I prefer that term to "Communion," which brings up solemn images of deeply spiritual people meditating on their own sins and/or holiness. Ugh.

If we could find a way to let people know that the Eucharist is not "family time" nor for the club...it's not supposed to be divisive at all. The Methodists even believe it can be a way to mediate Grace - a way God reaches out to believers and non-believers alike. I like that theory.

I hope that when we have Eucharist, which we will do if not every week I hope pretty regularly, it will be presented in such a way as to be joyful, an expression purely of our thanks for something that God's done for us. There are no qualifications. There are no tests to pass. Jesus did all the work. Now we just get invited to the party.

Hmmm...maybe that can be my first homily?? :)

ding said...

i really like this post.
i love Communion (what i grew up calling it and what we presbyterians call it).

i've always felt that it was special and good and there is something about the ritual that's so comforting to me. to have that sacrament every week, to me, is an affirming and edifying pleasure.

jw said...

I haven't been reading everything so I am not totally clear on the setting you are talking about for Eucharist.

If you are talking about a regular weekly meeting of a particular church community then I say that weekly Eucharist is a must.

I am a Roman Catholic Priest. I got married about 20 years ago so the Catholic Church did not want me around and my wife and I did not participate anywhere on Sundays for many years. My wife decided that she wanted to get involved in church again so she found a nearby Episcopal parish that turned out to be great. They were really welcoming. At first I was hesitant but when I participated in Sunday liturgy and found that it was so close that what I was used to and participating in the Eucharist cinched it. I was back to my relationship with God.

Jesus said "Take, eat", "Drink this", "do this for the rememberance of me." Yes, Eucharist at every Sunday liturgy.

Anonymous said...

You are all invited to St. Paul's Church in Pomona. We have Mass every Sunday at 1000 Hours and we sing most of it in clouds of incense. We are popefree Catholics, part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. We welcome everyone at the Lord's table. Whether you're Roman, Prot, Jewish, Hindu, Bhuddist, or whatever you are, God loves you and so do we. We ordain women and men, married or not, straight or gay. That's 242 E. Alvarado St. Pomona, CA. We want you all at Mass on Sunday!