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.