Rector's Blog: Holy Connection and Communion
When we first started piecing together our Vision Statement a couple years ago, we knew we needed to talk about relationships. The relationships we build and foster here are like the marrow of the Church of the Redeemer, so central to our DNA, that any vision we discerned about what the Holy Spirit was calling us to become had to emphasize that relational lifeblood. While there was much wordsmithing of the Vision Statement as a whole, the words for our relational hopes came quickly and remained largely unedited from the beginning.
We have a vision of a worshiping community that is United in Relationships of Holy Connection and Communion.
We were building on our understanding of ourselves as a congregation historically united across political, ideological, and theological lines. This has mattered at Church of the Redeemer for quite some time, and it is something we hope to continue to develop and hold dear as we move into the future. How might we live into that unity during a particularly polarizing time? By focusing on relationships: Specifically, our belonging to God in Jesus Christ, and through that, our belonging to one another. And how did we live into that belonging? Through the connections we built in ministry, and through the Communion we experienced in worship. This was our thinking.
At the time, including Communion seemed so simple and so obvious: In one word we tipped our hat to the centrality of the Eucharist in our shared life, and recognized the fact that our liturgy literally brings us together. The Communion meal is the climactic moment of our worshiping community. It is the single most unifying event of a Body that is dedicated to unity. No matter where you are on any given day in your faith, your mood, your politics, or your status in the world, the Eucharistic prayer is for you, and when you come forward and place your empty hands before you in expectation of Christ’s presence, you are a beloved and belonging child of God. Nothing less, and nothing more. In this moment we live into our oneness.
How could we have known that we would not be able to participate in the Eucharist for such an extended period of time? Our Communion meal was such a given in our understanding of ourselves. The bread and the wine, the body and the blood. The moment of our being joined to God, fed by God, rooted and grounded in God so that we might serve this world with full hearts.
We know that communion extends beyond the moment we receive the sacrament. We know that communion is a state of being, a spiritual reality that is not exclusive to our liturgy but extends deep into our whole lives and is meant to inform every relationship. We know this. We know that we exist even when we are not participating in this ritual. So, we might be tempted in our inability to celebrate the eucharist to pretend it’s just a symbol of something larger.
But to our church, to you and me, it is not simply a symbol. It is not just a signifier of something deeper: It is the participation in that depth. Holy Communion – what we call the Eucharist - is not a reminder that God is with us and we are with God: It is the experience of God’s presence and our belonging: Our participation in the Eucharistic feast is not a reminiscence of an abstract God, but a reckless, headlong leap into the deepest relationship of all – it is God feeding us in and with Love, and it is our supping and sharing in that Love.
And right now, we cannot participate in this ritual. And we miss it. But we know that this makes sense, this fasting, and this missing. Communion is about our spiritual health and nourishment in Jesus. We know that potentially spreading a lethal virus to one another runs counter to the unifying, uplifting, and healing reality of the Eucharist.
With this in mind, I want to remind you of a simple idea: A vision statement is not about who we are – it’s about who we are becoming. Not everything we say in our Vision Statement is true about who we are as a community today. Much of it is describing who we will be in the future. Our abstaining from Eucharist can have the feeling of denying our identity. It is not. We are caring for the lives of our members; we are tending to the relationships that form and strengthen us. And like every other aspect of our Vision Statement, those things which are not currently true about us will be true about us in the future. That is to say, our holy communion is not our past: It is our future.
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