Even before Covid shut things down, I was rethinking “church.” Time spent with our small group felt like I had “been to church” much more than my time in a Sunday service.
For most of my life, my Christian beliefs fit into a nice, neat box with a bow on top. It was simple: We are sinners (true), Jesus provided forgiveness (true), and we need to accept Jesus as Savior, then do good things while waiting to go to heaven (kinda true?)
Yet, slowly, over time, I realized Christianity felt like a flannelgraph story. My neatly organized “beliefs box” began to seem too small for God, incomplete and, dare I say, uncompelling, convoluted, and confusing. I had (and still have) more questions than answers.
Am I allowed to confess those things out loud??
Around 2015, the equivalent of an earthquake shook my belief system. To be honest, almost everything I had believed came up for questioning. The one stone that remained standing in the rubble was Jesus. I had walked away from Him in my early 20s and that only led to deeper emptiness. I found no other to follow so I turned back towards him. He remains my King Jesus.
It has been over a year since we attended church in person. Mid-March, 2020, our church stopped meeting due to Covid. We continued to watch our local gathering on TV and additionally began watching Church of England or my friend’s Anglican service.
My heart has been craving a change in how I worshipped on Sunday…something more liturgical…something that didn’t culminate with the sermon.
The Anglican service culminates in Eucharist (communion) which felt refreshing.
My husband and I would share communion at home at the end of a TV service. Though special, we both longed to attend a liturgical service and kneel at the railing to receive the bread and the cup.
Last week, Gregg saw that Christ Episcopal Church was going to offer the cup. We both agreed that we wanted to go. We really stepped outside our comfort zone and enjoyed their breakfast before the service. As we ate, I was aware of feeling nervous.
Honestly, I was not aware of any inner desire or pull to be back in a physical church service. Did I miss worshipping “in a church” more than I realized? I wondered how I would respond.
Entering the sanctuary, we chose to sit toward the back. It was good to be there. Good to kneel in prayer, good to recite the Nicene Creed, and hear other foundations of our faith. But there was no spine-tingling experience at being “back at church.”
We watched as people ahead of us took communion. Some drank from the cup. Most took the wine by in tincture (dipping their wafer into the cup.)
Yes, we are vaccinated. Yes, Covid is on the rise in Jacksonville again. Yes, it felt risky. Yet I KNEW that I wanted to drink from the cup since it was being offered.
It was our turn for our pew to go forward to receive communion. We knelt at the rail, waiting with hearts and hands open to receive.
I love looking at the priest as I receive the bread, so I looked up when he came to me. The light from the stained glass put a glow above his head. He put the bread in my hands saying, “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. Feed on Him in your heart by faith.” Suddenly, tears began to fall. I didn’t see that coming.
When the cup came and “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,” was spoken, the tears were flowing more. I drank, then continued to kneel for another few seconds to just cry. I cried walking back to our seats. I cried through the short conclusion of the service.
Gregg expressed his feelings, saying, “It felt like breaking a long fast.” I’m not able to pinpoint what I felt. I just know that receiving communion was a deeply moving experience.
Postscript: Within a week or so of our communion experience, the Delta variant of Covid was rampant. The common cup was no longer being offered. I’m so thankful for that tiny open window.