Communion

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?

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2 thoughts on “Communion

  1. Every time a certain college roommate went to an IHOP, he ordered the same meal — a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity (a delicious pancake combo, for you Philistines out there!) — and stir his hot chocolate in silence for a few minutes.

    It was a sort of imaginative communion with some dear friends from high school — friends who, when he was 16 years old, had thrown him his first-ever birthday party by taking him out to an IHOP and buying him (you guessed it) a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, and a hot cocoa.

    I love that — it struck me as a much more meaningful sacrament than the Body and Blood was for me.

    Which is to say: yeah, let’s do this! I can imagine two routes for making this meaningful.

    First, like my roommate (and like some of the people at COTA), we can imaginatively connect to personal past experiences for a type of meal. “Eating this hamburger, I remember my grandmother, who took me out to Burger King one rainy spring afternoon.”

    Second, we can imaginatively connect to the people & things that brought us this specific meal. “Eating this hamburger, I give thanks to the farm hands who labored in the sesame-plant field.”

    I think we should pursue both routes, and with gusto!

    I’ve already given some thought to route #2, and I think we can have some real fun here.

    One possibility: games! We go around in a circle, each person being thankful to someone (“someones” can include plants and animals). Examples: “Mom, who made the hamburger.” “The first person to EVER make a hamburger.” “The cow whose muscles make up this hamburger.” “The sharecropper who reaped the lettuce.” “The ancient Babylonian who first domesticated the sesame seed.” And so on!

  2. Thankfulness strikes me as a different – and also meaningful – concept to ritualize. My husband and I stick to this habit with varying levels of success, but we try to build a ritual of saying something we are thankful for (connected to the food or not) at the start of our evening meal. In our society, we don’t spend enough time being thankful and I would love to develop a ritual that would remind us to be thankful.

    That said, I would like us to be careful and not lose sight of creating a sharing ritual. I’m concerned that if we combine the two – one will get lost. Both concepts seem worthy of their own special recognition.

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