Monday, September 11, 2006

First communion

My church day ended today with a visit to the home of a woman who had spent most of the summer in the hospital recovering after surgery for rupturings inside her. She was in ICU and barely conscious the first time I visited. That's when I met her husband. And that first visit was as much for him as for her. I visited her regularly during her months of hospitalization, learning about her 10-year-old daughter. Learning about her work as a nurse in Alaska. Learning about her son the 19-year-old Marine. I took her communion once. And, when I learned that she cherished and missed Rev. Djalma, who had retired in December but returned to part-time visitation work, I arranged for him to visit her, too. When I took communion to her, I told her I was sorry I had missed her husband that day, thinking he could have shared it with us. But she told me he didn't take communion because he was a recovering (insert the name of a past religion here). The last time I visited her was one of those occupational hazards of pastoral care, but the joyous kind. I arrived at the hospital and she was no longer there.

I called her at home to see how she was doing. And a few weeks later, I called again. I asked her if there was anything she needed from the church in her continued recovery, and she said no but thanked me for the visits and the church's prayers. Fifteen minutes later, she called back and said there was something. She told me she'd really like for me to visit her at home. She wanted to continue the conversation. I told her I would, but I also told her I was about to leave for camp and would call her on my return to set up a visit. Due to illness and other mundane chaos -- like the start of the school year, it took a little longer than I had hoped, but today, I visited after church.

She was feeling tired so was reclining on her bed. I took a chair by the bed, her husband sat on the bed next to her. A Russell terrier named Cupid raced through the room with a ball, and the woman's daughter came in briefly to meet me and then retreated to her room, where we could hear her singing to herself. The visit was pleasant and comfortable, and the woman seemed much happier and healthier in her own environment.

After some time, I told her I had brought communion and asked if her daughter would like to join us. She called her daughter in. Her husband said: I'm not a member of the church, but there was an implied Is that okay? in his voice. So I assured him that Methodist communion was open to anyone, repeating the words of welcome and invitation that are often spoken in the church and explaining with joy that this table was open. Their daughter came into the room and the woman told her we were about to take communion, she said you know the bread and wine we sometimes have at church, have you ever done that? The daughter had not. So I explained communion as this meal Jesus shared with his disciples, describing that night when they were together. And I explained that through his actions and words that night, he invited us to always be not only in a continuation of that meal but of his work in the world. And her Dad joined me in explaining communion. And then we all shared communion around the bed, with a prayer quilt from our church as an altar cloth. Afterward, we decided to sing some hymns, but the ones we all knew were Christmas carols, so that was what we sang. O Come All Ye Faithful.

When I think about my call back to the Methodist church and to ministry, I sometimes see it as a story strung together or woven together in communion moments. From that first communion of my return, celebrated around a quilted altar table at the women's retreat to my first communion at the communion rail at Vespers on Ash Wednesday through many others.

What a privilege it is to get to share the grace and beauty of that communion meal, today, poured straight from the cup on the altar and carried to a quilted bedside.

I live in anticipation of continued communion.

Thanks be to God.


molly said...

maybe you need to share in church on sunday. or on open doors sunday...

GenXGirlRev said...

That was incredible! I agree with need to share this story with the Church! It made me think of what an Eastern Christian shared with me about communion in there tradtion. The priest after blessing the bread and cup lifts each one and says, "Because this bread is holy, all bread is holy." And the cup, "Because this cup is holy, all cups are holy." That certainly connects with the blessing that faith is lived in between communion and through communion. In great appreciation! Erika