Word of the Week

Communion for All or Maybe Not?

I went to mass on Saturday- for a wedding in Naples, Florida.

It was a reversal of roles for me. Instead of doing the wedding, I was in the wedding as a bridesmaid along with Kevin who was the Best Man.  I was happy for the break and glad to be there to support our friends.

But, little did I know how hard it would be for me sit through the entire mass.

There are a couple of non-negotiable for me about church in the past couple of years: there must be people of all races and cultures present (or at least welcomed), there must be both men and women in leadership and there must be an ecumenical feel to the service (i.e. no one should feel bad because they are from a different tradition).

But, in this Catholic Mass, I was denied communion because I was not Catholic. No questions asked.

Even though I knew parts of the liturgy by heart. . . . even though I had been ordained to the gospel ministry . . . . even though I spend my life in commitment to the same Christian faith professed by the priests and the congregation. Even though I probably go to church more than anyone other than the priests at the wedding. . . .

I was denied the body of Christ.

And not only this, but I was forced to go forward with my hands crossed tight to my shoulders to receive a blessing from a priest who denied me communion and who would not allow a person of my gender to enter his ranks. I didn't make it through the blessing before I had to quickly get back to my seat.

I cried. I cried a lot in fact.

This moment felt for me like the injustice of the system of the church that we live in came to rest upon my shoulders.

It surprised me how upset I became. Especially as the liturgist sang: "Taste and See that the Lord is Good."

There was no tasting and seeing that the Lord was good for me that day. And I wept.

I need to preface this post by saying that I love my friends who recently married, Frank and Julie. They had a beautiful wedding. I have many dear friends who are practicing Catholics. I'm happy for this fact. I feel the Catholic tradition, while has done some very hurtful things (as have most religious traditions have done too), they have contributed much good to the world.

I didn't want my tears to be any reflection of my pride to be standing next to my friends that day, but the whole experienced made me ponder the real problems with Catholic/ Protestant relations.

When you are denied the body of Christ that you don't feel too friendly afterwards to a tradition that is to be your cousin in the faith.

I don't think I can go back to Mass again unless it is for a wedding or a funeral of a dear friend. I just can't, especially as a pastor now.

(When you can say with the priest, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again" because these are your words you lead you people in at the table, but are denied the elements it is just wrong. Very wrong.)

The whole experienced made me all the more happy to celebrate communion at Washington Plaza in a week. I had forgotten what a GIFT our open table is to the community. We believe, in the tradition of John Wesley, that the table is a means of grace and all are open to receive it.

I look forward to extending Christ's welcome to all-- Catholic, Baptist, Methodists, whom ever to our service of word and table on August 2nd. I might just have tears in my eyes of thanksgiving for the privilege of sharing the Lord's Supper will any who find our doors.

I think this is the way that Christ's meal was meant to be shared anyway-- not an exclusive club type of table, but a table for the poor, the weak, the needy, and any who would come seeing the Lord's presence.

Luckily, we have some fun friends who found a way to cheer me up afterwards. At the reception, we posed for this picture and our friend Bhavik, served us some bread from the buffet.  Made me smile.Bhavik Offers communion