Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Week of Looking Back instead of Looking Forward

This week's blog is going to be a little different! Since I am going to be away this Sunday, we will be welcoming a guest preacher to the pulpit, John Roberts, Pastor Emeritus of Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore. Since John is going off lectionary this week (look forward to his sermon based on 2 Kings 2:1-14 and Matthew 4:18-22!), it seemed silly for me to blog on the lectionary instead, I wanted to offer some reflections on the powerful experience many of us at Broadneck and around the world shared in worship this past Sunday.

Since the 1930s and 1940s, World Communion Sunday has been celebrated by many Christian traditions across the globe on the first Sunday of October. It is a day when congregations of varied denominations, geographical locations, and backgrounds all agree to come to the Lord's Table as a symbol of our unity in Christ, of the one bread and one cup that we all share and that makes of us one body.

On Sunday, our usual circle of participants gathered at the front of the sanctuary to pass the bread and the cup to one another, to join hands and sing of God's Amazing Grace. But on this particular Sunday, thanks to the creativity of our Worship Ministry Group, our circle was much larger than our eyes could see. At the same moment (11:00 AM EST) that we were gathering to share the supper, a congregation in England to which some of our members have a connection and a congregation in the Czech Republic where some of our members are currently living and serving in ministry each gathered to break bread at the same time that we did, to pray prayers that members of our different churches had written, and to pray by name for those in the other churches gathered to worship.

Communion, on this day, took on a much broader scope: we were literally in communion with Christians from multiple other nations whose faces we may never see but who we are bound to as brothers and sisters in Christ. The opportunity to take the prayers that people in England and Prague had written and lay them beside prayers written here in Maryland, creating a liturgy together and knowing that each of our churches would be offering these prayers for our world and one another in unison, was one of the most humbling things I have ever done. How much bigger than all of us is the mission and love of this God that we serve!

The responses I received from the congregations in England and Prague about their experiences of this communion were so moving that I asked their permission to share them with you. Take a look at what happened in other places this Sunday:

“We loved being ‘with you’. Our main worship service is in the morning but an evening (6:30) more intimate affair does happen some weeks. This was re-scheduled for us today so we could meet at 11am EST (4pm here). Twenty of our folk gathered and during the liturgy, as a body, we read out the names of those listed from Maryland and Prague and the other places. St Cleers has many links with churches and smaller Christian communities around the world and your initiative has sparked a discussion here about their organising a ‘World Communion’ service some time. So thank you for making the first move and for thinking of us when putting together this partnership.” -Brian Pearson, Somerset, England

"Almost all our students joined us in the service. Our time of Silent Prayer was one of many voiced prayers in Russian, French, Lithuanian etc. We shared a loaf and drank tea. The students added chocolate candy. Conversation continued for over an hour. So lovely international worship. The time was precious. Our students really got into the prayer time and prayed in many languages for much longer than the three short litany prayers. They prayed for our church in particular. I know you are praying for them. Please continue." -Nancy Lively, Prague

On a week when we were reminded by Jesus that the faith we have is not so small after all, what a beautiful thing to be reminded of this larger story and community to which we are connected. May that connection--and the meal that we shared--nourish and sustain us for the work God has yet to call each of us to do!

1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Amen! So sorry I couldn't be there (or participate directly) but I was in the air at the time. Probably somewhere over Western Europe, actually. Sounds like a wonderful experience! These kind sof practices, calling names aloud, looking at pictures, etc. helps make the connection deeper and, well, more real (if you will). These are not abstract things somewhere, these are people with all the complex dimensions that entails. This is hard to fathom, even in this pseduo-connected age.

I'm thinking of you all back in Annapolis, and passing along greetings to people here in Tbilisi. Thank you for your prayers! They mean the world to me.