Music began to play as people sat in the chairs to pray. Parents were dismissed to get their little ones from the children’s ministry area and return. Slowly people began to arise from their seats and move forward to receive their portion. But to my surprise, they began huddling together in small groups or as family units. Embracing one another, they prayed, and they took communion together.
I was there to support my friends in the first all-church gathering of their new church plant and also to photograph. I snapped away, but felt emotional at this simple sacrament suddenly taking on new meaning.
Communion. Conjures the words common and union in my mind. The actual dictionary definition includes the words sharing and exchanging. None of those concepts can be done individually, and yet in all my communion-taking experience, the sacrament is largely individual. We pray individually in our seats, receive the elements individually (whether in our seats or at the front), and take them individually. Sure, we are all gathered together in one place doing the same ritual at the same time, but compared to what I witnessed last Sunday evening, it still feels highly individual. Private. Me and God getting right in our relationship, connecting with one another . . . but not truly connecting with other believers through the experience.
I’m not sure if this communal communion has been a common practice in the smaller gatherings of this church. The whole process seemed so natural . . . so obvious. I do find benefit in spending some private time remembering what Christ did for me. But this scene evoked in me a sense of longing to spend more communal time remembering what Christ did for us.
So this week, I’m left meditating on the beauty of communion. Communal communion. I hope to experience the depth of this kind of communion again soon.
Photo: Communion at The City Church (Jan 2010)