I visited a new church on Sunday. It was different. I found it through the blog of a lesbian Christian who attends there with her partner and their children. The service was liturgical without being high church. The atmosphere was warm, with lots of talk about belonging and welcome and openness. The pastor is a woman.
Completely by accident and despite being twenty minutes late, I ended up sitting two seats away from the blogger who helped me find the church. I had intended to introduce myself, but found that I had seriously underestimated the stalkerishness of the scenario. In fact, I ended up not introducing myself to anyone because communion completely overwhelmed me.
I have never received the elements from two women before. In my entire 13 years of taking communion, there has always been at least one man involved. Usually, that man was the one in charge, and the woman was assisting him in some way.
I have never taken communion in a church that affirms homosexuality.
I have never taken communion in such an ethnically diverse group.
I have never taken communion in a church so theologically different from the one in which I grew up.
Halfway up the aisle, I can hear my father thundering on about profaning the elements, and I am suddenly terrified that this is some kind of step away. Away from the safety of confidence, however ill-founded. Away from the certainty of sameness. Away from the kind of grace and love I have always known.
I cannot imagine what my face must have looked like as I held out my hands to receive the bread. The pastor looked concerned.
I don’t actually remember walking back up the aisle.
I sat down, still chewing my juice-soaked bread, and I realized that this might be the first time in my life I’ve really taken communion.
The table we celebrate is not about exclusivity. It is not about inviting those we who make us most comfortable or about eating with those who agree with us. The table we celebrate is for sinners, redeemed and still working out their salvation. It is for the lost and the broken and the forgotten. It is for black and white and every color in between. It is for men and women and those who don’t quite fit within that binary. It is for homosexuals and heterosexuals and bisexuals and asexuals and those who don’t quite know what they want yet. The table is for everyone. The grace and love and belonging are for everyone. No one is excluded. No one is turned away.
The realization that these people might accept me, in all of my damaged, skeptical, messiness, was overwhelming. I wept. The sweet woman next to me slipped out into the foyer and brought back some tissue. She hugged me after the benediction and said, “You got real with that.”
This is what church is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be safe. It’s supposed to be real.