Communion on the Streets for Pride

Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims.  That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.
Capital Pride takes shape outside Pilgrims. That's our intern, Kristin, in the front of this pix. Check out the bubbles in front of her...coming out of our bubble machine.

Capital Pride was last weekend in Washington, D.C. and the Saturday afternoon parade starts at the footsteps of Pilgrims. And by starting out in front of Pilgrims I mean this the chaos you see the picture above.

Pilgrims opens its doors for Pride for bathrooms, water (with our water station handled by the Fairfax Hotel) and this year we added communion in the sanctuary. Our sanctuary had the AC going full blast and one of our Parish Associates, Charles Van Gorder, was present to share communion, talk, and be present. Our sanctuary became a meditative space for those seeking some quiet and stillness from the chaotic, sensory, rainbow scene out front.

This year we also decided to take communion to the More Light Presbyterian marchers while we waited for the parade to start. This meant taking communion to 22nd and N Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20037.

Our fabulous interns, Emily, Andrew, and Kristin took old communion trays and made them fabulous.

Emily cut up baguettes left over from lunch from Pride officials lunch and staging area at Pilgrims.

Jess Fisher, former intern, and I took the bread and the trays to the More Light Presbyterian waiting area. We shared in communion using the human microphone method--a method used by the Occupy movement to run meetings and liturgies. We used improv for the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving. The whole thing went something like this:

Me: We gather

Crowd: We gather

Me: To share a sacred meal on the streets

Crowd: To share a sacred meal on the streets....

Me: What acts of creation do we give thanks for? People called those out. What acts of the prophets do we need to remember? People called those out. What acts of Jesus do we need to remember? What acts of the Spirit? People called those out.

Then we used the human microphone for the Words of Institution.

We shared.

As Jess and I walked back to Pilgrims with what was left of the juice and bread, some folks stopped us to have their own communion moment. Before taking the bread and juice, one person said to Jess, "I have done some very bad things in my life. Very bad things." Jess shared with love and acceptance.

Reflections from sharing communion on the streets:

1) You know all those rules and constructs that the Church  has around ordination and sacraments and whatever? Guess what?  The streets don't care. Thank you, Jesus! When Jess (non-ordained) shared communion, the person didn't ask if she was ordained. Jess didn't ask if the person had been baptized. Who has time for those questions on the streets? Jess carried the symbols of love, life, community, and new beginnings and the streets called her to share freely. For me, the streets expose the absurd nature of the Church. Can you imagine if Jess had said, "Oh, wait. I can only share this with you if you are baptized." Or I had said, "Jess, get out of the way, this is for me the ordained to serve." Seriously? #assholeclergy

2) God is there. We didn't take the Church to 22nd and N. Nor did we take God there. God and the Church and the Spirit are already on the streets. We were greeted by God on the streets. "Well hello there Pilgrim people and MLP's. Thanks for being here on the streets. I've been here all along. Says God every friggin' day."

3) Boundaries get blown up on the streets. See #1. But there wasn't a table to center us. Or walls of a church to show us we are Church. I had to call out "The Lord Be with You" in a loud, directive way and get folks to bunch up together. We had to create our own space within the space of 22nd and N. We also started on our own initiative. No time and space boundaries of liturgy that prompted me to start like "now it's communion because that comes after the hymn which comes after the sermon."

4) Sensory + the Sacred + the Profane:  The quiet nature of the sanctuary that people expect? The table manners of church respectability? Pigeons walking around? Garbage at our feet? There is no separation of the sacred and the profane on the streets. It's all sacred. The symbolic nature of the Eucharist gets infused all over the streets. And the sacred nature of the streets gets infused into us and the sacred meal. Again, boundaries are pushed, challenged, and blown-up when you have dueling piano players on a float behind you and Cher being blasted in front of you. The senses, our lives, our hopes, dreams, urban air, urban sky, urban asphalt, human brokenness and all gets knocked up together on the streets in a way, for me, that doesn't happen in a sanctuary.  The "this is how we are supposed to act with communion, at the table" gets re-configured on the streets. And maybe not re-configured but you are you on the streets and less of what is expected of you, constructed of you by the Church and Empire.

Why are we doing communion ONLY behind closed doors? And who decided that along the way? And why is that the way we follow?

Some of the photos in the gallery were taken by Marti Mefford.

Pentecost and Pride with Bubbles and Fire

Bubbles in Pilgrims Sanctuary
Bubbles in Pilgrims Sanctuary

Pilgrims worship planning team gathered in May to brainstorm for our Pride and Pentecost service on June 8th.

First, we set the context of Pride and Pentecost, creating 2 columns with the headings "Pride" and "Pentecost."

We made of list of what is Pride: celebration, color, playfulness, spontaneity, public, coming out, identity, risk, community, sub-communities, parade, Festival.....

Then Pentecost: celebration, color, risk, identity, public, Empire, coming out, community....

Lots and lots of connections with Pride and Pentecost.

Our brainstorming Pilgrims narrowed in on the beginning and the end of worship.

The beginning of worship came down to two words: bubble machine.

The end of worship came down to two more words: fire pit.

The bubble machine came into fruition as we talked through the opening litany and telling of the Pentecost story. What if we had a bubble machine up in the choir loft turned on when the "Holy Spirit" came into the Pentecost story? YES.

We talked a lot about identities and what Pride/Pentecost means for being "out" with who we are as individuals but as a community.  We wanted to do something as part of communion to name our who we were, who we are now, and who we hope to become and burn identities in our fire pit to symbolize refining and releasing those identities into the cosmos and Spirit.

So, after we welcomed 1,800 people through Pilgrims doors before the start of the Pride parade on Saturday for water and bathrooms, we fired up our new bubble machine and fire pit.

Justin George, one of our members, sat in the choir loft and at the right moment started up the machine. Gently, quietly, peacefully, visibly the bubbles floated over the loft and down into the sanctuary. The kids cried, "bubbles!" The faces of adults started to break into smiles and awe. One of our long time members, Jeanne Mayer, sat in her pew lovingly popping the bubbles that came into her personal space. My first thought, "oh, that's what the Holy Spirit looks like."

For me, it was also an experience of  engaging the space above our heads with the natural elements of water and air. The bubbles were an experience of impermanence, lasting only a few seconds and an incredible creation of primal elements of life.

During communion, we fired up the bubbles again. I hadn't planned on the communion bubbles but after the initial experience I worked through my "should I get Justin to do this, do I want to do this, I hadn't planned on this so maybe I shouldn't do it" thoughts and had Justin hit the switch during our walking meditation prior to coming to the table.

We walked with the Spirit in the shape of bubbles pouring over us, holding our now-written-down identities of past, present and future. After the bread and cup, we processed out to our fit pit a blazin' with yet another primal element (fire!) and we tossed our identities on the Pentecost flames, refining and releasing past, present, and future into the cosmos.