Communion Without A Center

Church of the Pilgrims has been having conversations the past two months focused on race, racial identity, and anti-racism work.

By anti-racism I mean work that moves us in and out and through the lethal knot of white supremacy--the belief that white people are superior to all other races.

Our worship services have also been part of our anti-racism work. As we planned our Homecoming Service, the service that is our liturgical marking spot for the beginning of fall, we looked at how we were going to serve communion in a way that modeled the creation of more just and loving social structures.

This is what we did.

We followed our usual pattern of singing ourselves to the communion table after our choir sang the anthem.

Folks gathered in a circle around the table and usually the folks who are leading the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving stand behind the table.

We work hard at having three people at the communion table for the Prayer of Great Thanksgiving--usually me, Jeff, and a non-ordained person. Sometimes it can be me and two other people. Sometimes Jeff and two other people. At times two or three people whose names aren't Ashley or Jeff.

This time no one was at the table.

We did this to deconstruct the center.

In anti-racism work we are disrupting the center, breaking through that lethal knot which binds us to a horrific and violent racial structure.

Our work as Followers of the Way is to create a moral imagination where we can begin to see our trust, our actions, our voices flowing out of the ways of Jesus rather than the ways of white supremacy.

Our Prayer of Great Thanksgiving was done with multiple voices, voices coming from various parts of the circle.

Empire/Imperial Ways/Supremacy wants us to listen to one voice, the loudest voice, the what appears to be the most powerful voice. With multiples voices, we had to look, listen, and find the voice of the prayer. We had to turn our bodies to locate the voice.

Before the service I asked two people to hold the bread and the cup anywhere in the circle. The bread and the cup that we were going to break and pour was somewhere in the circle rather than sitting on the table.

When we got to the breaking of bread and pouring of the cup, I called out "who as the bread!?" Cody, our new Young Adult Volunteer, called out "I do!" Jeff walked over to Cody and together they broke the bread.

I called out "who as the cup?!" Kathleen McBride and her kids yelled out "We do!" I walked across the circle and poured the cup with Kathleen and her kids.

For serving the bread and the cup, we usually pass baskets of bread and cup around the circle. One person after another the bread and cup get passed. It's predictable. You can anticipate when the bread/cup are coming to you. You know who is going to serve it to you.

This time we crisscrossed across the open space of the circle. People were given the invitation to walk across the circle to share the bread and cup. Once shared, that person would take the bread and cup and walk to another part of the circle.

In this way, people had to pay attention to each other. They had to ask "have you been served?" If someone said yes, the person with the bread and the cup moved on to someone else, still asking the question "have you been served?"

Imagine....if we did this out in public. Excuse me, are you hungry? Do you know someone who is hungry? Do you need some food? We have some food to share.

I had some fear and anxiety in thinking this through. What if we left someone out? What if someone got ignored?

Then I got over myself. My fears. My anxiety. Trust Pilgrims. Trust the Spirit. Trust this body of Jesus people.

In sharing the bread and the cup in this way, we had to take some risks. Asking "have you been served" has a level of vulnerability to it--you don't know. You had to ask. A connection was created. Empathy was present. The Spirit in her improvisational ways moved through us.

We made eye contact. We paid attention to each other in a new way. We had to look around. We moved in unpredictable, non-linear, multi-directional ways. This counters the linear, one directional way that supremacy seems to work--listen to the white voice, the white body, the white power structure.

Instead, we listened to the voice of the Spirit, the body of God's people, the structure of sharing in order to shape and interact with each other.

Liturgy is the work of the people. Liturgy is NOT the work of a status quo people.

Liturgy invites us into a new kind of work, a new way of imagining, a powerful way of disrupting and dismantling the center.