It is an interesting irony that I like communion more as an atheist than I ever did as a Christian.
I always thought the concept of transubstantiation was a silly misunderstanding of something meant to be metaphorical. When I was a Christian, it was the “relationship” with God that mattered and communion just seemed pointless. From where I stand now, religion is still about relationships – but relationships with other people. And, now it isn’t nearly so hard to understand why the ritual of communion has been around so long.
Rituals elevate and set apart certain activities from the rest of the quotidian world. They help us remember things we have decided are important and communal rituals allow us to relive these shared memories together.
There is something incredibly human about sharing meals together. We welcome guests to our home with an offer of wine. We sit together at the table, sharing our lives, while passing the basket of bread. Communal meals are a common tool for building relationships and this seems like a rich foundation for the development of a ritual.
I have been thinking about the development of rituals for our fledging “church” in general and about a way to create our own communion in particular. This past Sunday I had a wonderful experience with communion at Church of the Apostles (COTA) and I think aspects of the service would work very well for us. As is the case with some churches, COTA opens its communion table to “all.” While the blessings feel a bit like mumbo jumbo to me, but I appreciate the welcome to join the community. In connection with All-Soul’s, they did communion a little differently last Sunday. The congregation was asked to bring food that reminded them of a loved one who had passed away. So, along with “the bread that reminds us of Christ”, there was “the coffeecake my grandmother used to make” and “the energy drinks I used to drink with my best friend so that we could stay up all night talking.”
Unless appropriate to a theme, I wouldn’t necessarily want us to focus on food that reminds us of those we have lost. But I love the idea of passing around food to share together as someone tells a story of the people and events in their life that are called to mind by this meal.
How might we go about creating a meal ritual? What other aspects of communal life are worthy of ritualization?