Today is World-Wide Communion Sunday, a fine idea. This got me remembering various communion services I’ve attended. In the little village church of my youth, we went to the altar and kneeled, receiving the bread and little silver glasses of wine from the minister bending over us from the other side of the altar. The choir came down from the choir stall to sit in the front pews, where we had a good view of the soles of the kneelers’ shoes. Once when I was about twelve or thirteen, my friend Ellie and I saw that one of the soles had a hole in it. We got to giggling, and the more we tried to stifle the giggles, the worse they became. I was pleasantly surprised today that I could recall the event without embarrassment.
When my brother was in seminary, he decided to conduct a Watch Night Service, complete with communion, on New Year’s Eve, using John Wesley’s program. It was memorable for many reasons. First of all, the church wasn’t heated, it not being a Sunday. My brother determined to have the sanctuary lit by candles, so there was the strangely moving power always provided by such unusual light and shadows in amongst the pews and altar. There were only a few people there: our mother and father, Bill and I, and a few of our parents’ friends. One of the women had just undergone a sadness, I can’t remember about what, and afterwards she told our parents that the ceremony had touched her deeply. The service was very long, perhaps two hours. John Wesley never spared his congregation. He used to preach outside the collieries to the miners coming off work, and he would preach for an hour on, for example, justification by faith.
Once when my sister-in-law was having an operation, I went to look after their children, then about 6 and 8. After school I set out a snack for them, grape juice and cookies. As they were drinking the juice, the younger one said, “Aunt Nancy, you gave us the communion juice.” They thought that was a great joke. Afterwards my brother explained that he kept Welch’s grape juice in the refrigerator so that he could bring communion to the sick and shut-in.
When I first came to Fredericton, I was charmed by the communion. The members of the board of sessions would come to us in the pews and serve us cubes of bread on silver plates and little glasses of juice carried in silver cases. We would hold the cubes of bread until everyone was served and then eat it all together. After we had all been served the wine, we would drink together, and then you heard clink, clink, clink as everyone put down the glass on the holder on the back of the pew. Now we usually go up to the altar, dip a piece of bread (sometimes a piece of pita bread) into the wine, communion by tinction, it is called. There is available a rice cracker or water for those with allergies. Today we did it the old way.
Sometimes in church, my tears spring up, often for no reason I can discern. Today they had something to do with gratitude – just a flash of thanksgiving accompanied by tears.