Sally Ann McKinseyThe Eucharist reshapes the service, pulling itself to the center,” writes columnist Colleen Cook in her contribution to this issue. The last few years have brought much to consider about the practice of ministry amid a global pandemic, continued...
The celebration of the Eucharist involves eating and drinking. Who gets to eat and drink and what they get to consume has been a much-contested matter in the history of the church. It is an issue that is worth pondering in these days when the division between the rich and poor grows exponentially each year.
If your family table is anything like mine, it’s never clean. In order to eat (or write), you’ve got to make space in a place crowded with baseball cards, crafting supplies, stacks of mail, homework during the school year, goggles and spray sunscreen during the summer heat. Some of the mess is just passing through, dropped here due to exhaustion and the chaos of family life, but some of it belongs here just as much as dinner.
My earliest recollections of hearing that particular verse from Matthew are from the celebrations of the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month as a child. After we had sung and prayed through the meal, the pastor would conclude with that verse. It resonated with me deeply for two reasons.
Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, and . . .” With this little rhyme, many children learn with their hands that the church is all about those gathered. Step into any sanctuary, and there, right before your eyes, is the communion table, the heart of the church.
Author’s note: This poetic proclamation is adapted from a talk that was given as part of a meeting of Not So Churchy, a worshiping community in New York City, in November of 2021. Not So Churchy is a place of healing and hope, where queerness and curiosity expand the spiritual journey beyond boxes and binaries.
In 2018, I was serving as the interim associate pastor for a medium-sized congregation in north Texas. The congregation was in a time of transition, and the head of staff and I began leading the session in discussions about how the congregation celebrated the Lord’s Supper. All the congregations I had previously been a part of served communion in one of two ways.
S. Beth TaylorBorn and baptized into the First Presbyterian Church (USA) of Smithfield, North Carolina, S. Beth Taylor has served as an artist and musician in churches in Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, and New York.My paraments/quilts are often complex in...
Participation precedes cognition. Long before I encountered words like anamnesis, epiclesis, and prolepsis, I sat in the front pew of the Beacon Hill Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas, my twelve-year-old self decked out in a white sport coat bought for the occasion, my hair well plastered with Brylcreem, and my eyes fixed on the pastor. It was Maundy Thursday, and I was being admitted to the Lord’s Table.
Ordained by another denomination, I have been a Presbyterian minister for nearly my whole ministry. Like many others, I was drawn to Presbyterianism impressed by the way the denomination explains itself on paper. The first Presbyterian congregation on whose staff I was called to serve was led by a pastor whose own views and practice corresponded relatively closely to the official documents by which the PC(USA) describes itself in terms of polity, theology, and liturgy.
Jesus knew exactly who was going to betray him. Yet he acted out of love to provide a foot washing for each of the disciples. In a sense, Jesus knows that we are going to be tempted to betray God in our words, actions, and deeds, and yet God acts out of love to provide for us a cleansing, called baptism. Remember your baptism.
It doesn’t seem that Peter is handling the aftershocks of Easter particularly well. It is never a good sign to be found naked in a boat. Your reaction may be like mine—this is risky content for the Bible, and this is not even the first story in the Good Friday/Easter narrative to mention someone without clothes! In Mark’s Good Friday account there is a “certain young man wearing nothing but a linen cloth” who, while fleeing the Gethsemane garden, “left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”
This past July, I accompanied a group of twenty high school youth and seven other adult leaders on a service trip to Breathitt County, Kentucky, where we spent a week of learning and service alongside the good folks at Appalachia Service Project. We worked together all week to contribute to ASP’s home repair projects, and we learned about the culture and history of a region vastly different from our own urban midwestern context.
In my household, everyone has a different opinion about how best to set the table for a meal with special guests. Should we use our everyday plates, showing an authentic (and perhaps more intimate) side of ourselves? Or should we use our special occasion plates to honor our guests? Should we use our clean, formal tablecloth or the much-loved and much-stained tablecloth? Should we decorate with store-bought flower arrangements or collect wildflowers from our yard and make hand-crafted art for the table?
I preach every Sunday, but somehow on the first Sunday of the month, preaching takes a back seat to the proclamation that is the Eucharist. Yes, the Eucharist is a response to the Word, but the Eucharist reshapes the service, pulling itself to the center, even though it takes place nearly at the end. I have always had a sense that the saints who have gone before us come to partake with us at the table.
To begin to explore the visual arts in relationship to the Eucharist for this column I again turned to Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, the summary report of the World Council of Churches in its effort to work toward church unity, published in 1982. This was also the year I began my own full-time service in the church.
Spoken from the table in Anderson Auditorium at Wednesday’s worship service, Presbyterian Association of Musicians Worship & Music Conference, 2022.
Connecting your family meals more intentionally to your faith can be as simple as lighting a candle or as involved as a mini-Bible study. Check out these tips for making sure God stays at your table beyond the Amen.
At a time when there is much to lament and confess—the idolatry of wealth and status, the atrocities of warfare and mass shootings, the devastating effects of climate change, the exclusion of beloved children of God—the church’s song is an act of resistance against evil, a sign of solidarity with the oppressed, an affirmation of faith in God’s future. This idea inspires the title and infuses the contents of David Bjorlin’s hymn collection, Protest of Praise.