This past Sunday I accompanied Brent to church, which I try to do unless I'm overworked, overtired, overstressed, or just plain too lazy. As you might expect, it doesn't happen often enough, but I always love going. This Sunday was especially good, as I didn't have to sit by myself even though Brent was acolyting (I assume this can be a verb?). A couple of friends who live in Brooklyn came all the way out to Princeton to spend some time with us, and so we all piled into the little green car Sunday morn and bumped our way down Alexander Road to Trinity.
I've been to church with Brent enough now that things are beginning to feel familiar. I know the tune they sing the Doxology to and I can remember to sing their words and not the ones I grew up with. I know how to sing the Sanctus in the middle of the Great Thanksgiving leading up to Communion. I know how to navigate my way to the altar rail and I don't freak out about how to hold my hands just right to receive the bread, or worry that I'll confuse the person giving me the cup and end up with wine down the front of my shirt. And I no longer feel that everyone is looking at me all the way up to the altar and all the way back to my seat.
I bet all this sounds really silly to people who have been going up to an altar to receive Communion all their lives. But these are the things you feel when what you're used to is having an old man in a bad tie hand you a plate while you sit in the pew. The only thing you have to worry about is when they forget to come pick it up from you after it's been passed. This sometimes happens. It's a real problem if you're a woman and you feel like you can't stand up and take it to the guy (someone might think you're usurping, you know).
Anyhow, taking Communion at Trinity has become a very special thing for me. It truly is the focal point of the service. The sermon happens, is over, sometimes is good, and then we begin "The Great Thanksgiving," a very long (or so it seems to this CofC kid) liturgical movement which retells in gratitude the story and the meaning of the crucifixion, punctuated by responses from the congregation expressing thanks. Then we move to the altar. The bread is presented with the words, "The body of Christ," and the wine with, "The blood of Christ."
Sunday evenings, I take the train into Brooklyn and meet with a bunch of other Manhattan CofCer's who've committed themselves to Christ's Church for Brooklyn. Right now we're a house church. I've missed the house church dynamic after coming back from China. There's something unreproduceable about the intimacy of sitting in someone's living room. It's something like the difference between homemade and store-bought bread. Homemade church. This past Sunday, we sat around Joe and Laura's living room, around their coffee table, and shared communion after being invited to think about what this church would look like in a year: what new faces would there be around the table as we share communion together in the future? As we sat together, I imagined us all as various parts of the body, a la Paul's metaphor, and thought, which parts are we missing? What parts will join us and make us whole? Who will be a part of our journey together toward wholeness in Christ?
Two communions, separated by about 6 hours, an hour's train ride, the difference between high liturgy and informal address, the difference between altar and coffee table, church and living room. And yet, somehow, the essence of communion--being drawn together with God and with others--collapses those differences, making it plain that whatever the form, the bread and the wine function the same. The body of Christ, the blood of Christ. What else could make two celebrations so different one and the same?