During Epiphany, sermons during worship at Pilgrims focused on sharing epiphany stories; giving witness to moments in our lives that were revelations and "a-ha's" when it comes to living in God's Way. Our stories revealed risks taken, security upended, and the discovery of community to sustain and embrace us. Each preacher rooted their story in a particular Biblical narrative. I used the story of Jesus sharing breakfast on the beach in the Gospel of John.
I used this text to talk about my experience taking communion during my Jesuit Volunteer Corp year in Atlanta, GA at the Open Door Community. This is what I said about taking communion once a week at this intentional, Christian community:
[blockquote indent="yes" ]In the receiving of communion, Open Door would take to the streets in worship, at the county jail, day labor sites, under bridges---pushing to embrace the streets as holy places. In the sharing of food and human connection in these places, and by laying claim to the presence of God in these places, the community sought to disrupt business as usual. It was solidarity in action—letting liturgy enable us to see the city in a different angle and with different eyes and to start to feel it in your bones the realities of poverty and the streets.[/blockquote]
In order to "feel communion in our bones" I took an idea out of the liturgical playbook of a clergy companion, John Allen (former intern at Pilgrims many moons ago) by sharing the communion meal around a faux campfire.
This is what I came up with:
When it was time for communion, we mindfully made our way to the entrance of the sanctuary and sat on the floor.
We gathered around the fire pit, we picked up the pause I set in the sermon to share in epiphanies that had come up so far in the service. We did this each week during Epiphany right after the sermon.
People shared beautiful testimonies. Really beautiful.
Then we "improved" the prayer of great thanksgiving. I offered up prompts like: "what part of creation do we need to give thanks for" and "what prophets and prophetic communities of now and long ago do we need to remember."
We did the words of institution together--creating the story of the last supper together.
When I got to the point of offering up the fish, I said, "what do we need to say about the fish?" Jamie Ernesto, age 7,shouted out "THIS IS THE FISH!" Yes. It is the fish. Stop the theological blah, blah, blah. It's fish. People LOL'd.
People talked to each other while they shared the bread and the cup---like a real meal.
The passing was a little chaotic, "can someone pass the cup?!" was shouted out a couple of times.
The fire. The sharing of epiphanies. Jamie Ernesto. Laughing. Talking.
This was one of my most memorable communion experiences ever. Parts of this communion could be replicated again. Yet we can't replicate the human beauty of this experience of the palpable authentic holy presence of Pilgrims.