Impressions of Communion

cropped-img_5286.jpg

Recently I oversaw communion for a gathering. As I prepped, I reviewed the liturgy, filled the tiny cups, broke the bread, and placed the elements on the table. I also asked three members to serve; they replied with “Yes” all around.

Hayley, one of the servers and a dear friend, was really excited. She then conveyed this story to me with happy tears in her eyes: “When I was a kid I thought being able to serve communion would be so cool—all of the people serving got to church early and would stand in the back. I thought they were, like, drawing up plays for the best way to pass the elements, but I knew they weren’t. Then one day I realized that I would never be able to to serve communion, because I am a girl. I noticed that only men did this. It made me really sad, so this will be my first time ever serving communion.” Her joy and excitement made me reflect on my own communion journey.

I grew up knowing that deacons served communion, and it just happened that all the deacons in the Baptist church of my youth were men. But when I was a teen my family began attending a different Baptist church. At this church communion was also served by deacons, but here there happened to be a female deacon, Bonnie Lupa. I remember taking note of this, not necessarily that she was a deacon, but that she was a woman serving communion. Her gender did not hold her back from what the Lord had called her to.

I also vaguely remember trying to start a conversation about a women serving communion on the drive home from church. No one took the bait, this was not something that seemed abnormal to my parents, or even out of place, so I hoped that this was normal.

And maybe this is where my journey to Biblical equality all started, maybe it began when I saw a deaconess pass the Body and the Blood, maybe that was the moment when Galatians 3:28 began to come alive. Maybe my parents not making a big deal out of it began to normalize something that seemed so extraordinary. The maybes are endless, but what I know for sure is that seeing a woman serve communion left an impression.

So on the day when I handed Hayley the Body and the Blood so she could pass the plate to all who were gathered, I stood in unity with the men and women in that room. Together we affirmed Hayley’s identity and calling, together we took the elements in unison—dropping our titles and individuality—together we proclaimed that “in Christ we are all one.”
As an aside I hope more churches invite women to partake in the communion liturgy. Giving girls and young women the examples needed to see themselves represented in the local church is exceedingly powerful.

Intentions

cropped-img_4903.jpg

When I moved to Wichita I began the practice of setting a word or phrase as my intention for the year or a season. This move was hard for me; I had to leave the place where I became an adult and where much of my identity was formed. I moved away from a community I loved and, in all truth, thought I would spend the rest of my life serving. During the packing and purging I found myself constantly repeating “journey onward.” This simple phrase became a mantra, hashtag, and bit of hope. As I arrived in my new apartment and unpacked and explored I found “journey onwardmorph into “smooth landing.”

Ever since these experiences, I found myself setting an intention for the new year. Last year I found that “openness” was to be my word: I was to be open to new people, places and experiences. This openness has led to deeper relationships, exploration, and adventure. Because of the intent to be open, I have felt God move in new ways within me and throughout my community of friends. I have learned a new level of vulnerability that brought tears, strength, and depth. One of the highlights of this past year’s journey through openness is a mentor relationship with Lisa, a co-laborer and friend, that has pushed me past my comfort zone and into hard truths that I might not have ever dealt with.

The push came from the books Lisa had me read and the conversations and prayer that followed. She had me read David Benner’s The Gift of Being Yourself, which is a game changer if the reader is open to the process. That book lead me to Desiring God’s Will also by Benner and Discernmen by Henri Nouwen. These two books came in handy as I led a Bible study at my new home on discerning God’s will. Every other week up to 12 of us gathered, shared food, and prayed together. Setting my intention to be open led to so much!

This past year my community was broadened because of this openness. A local worship leader, Abigail, reached out to me and some other women in our peer group on Facebook to get together. We did, and have every month since. Each month we gather for a meal and time together; there has been laughter, prayer, tears, and overwhelming joy. These gatherings led me to ask Anna to be my roommate. I barely knew Anna, but I was open to the prompting of the Spirit, and it was confirmed by those around me. I want to celebrate this past year of openness and look forward to this being a regular part of my life.

Even my coffee shop encounters are because of openness. Sometimes I leave the headphones off and meet new people, building something new. There is a Friday night Worship service at a local church that I go to, and when I got there God used one of His amazing daughters to speak truth to me. Truth she had no idea how badly I needed, truth that she was obedient to deliver, truth I may have missed if I had ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

All of this is not to brag about how open I have been. I know there are things I have missed and opportunities I have shut down, but I set an intention to be Open and the Lord has been faithful to challenge and encourage this openness. This year I have set a new intention that for the time being I am treasuring in my heart, but it was inspired by Mary and the Advent season. Setting these intentions has changed me, pushed me, and forced me to seek the Lord in new and sometimes uncomfortable ways, but it has been worth it every time.

So here is to setting intentions and sticking to them, even when it leads to tears, even when it leads to pain. In the words of Madeleine L’Engle, “On the other side of pain, there is still love.” Getting through the tough stuff makes the good stuff even better, and by spending last year focused on being open, I have seen love grow in very unlikely places where hurt once took root.