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On Communion – 56.3

Hannah Soldner

Hannah Soldner (she/her) is a Brooklyn-based writer, overthinker, and occasional artist. She attends three different churches, which is not actually as impressive as it sounds.

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. We meet once a month over Zoom; however, we sometimes have in-person events, including “pods” of people who will gather in a household to be on Zoom together. This poem was delivered in the hybrid online/in-person space of one such pod.

Purify My Heart, acrylic and ink on wood, Jennifer Bunge

Okay, so before we start, a fun fact for those of you who like sacraments and institutional memory:

This month marks the sixth anniversary of my baptism.

And at the Not So Churchy service six years ago, I was in front of everyone giving a talk about that sacrament.

It makes sense that I’d be here today,
six years later,

to talk about communion.

I love the way we do communion at Not So Churchy.

I love the homemade banana bread that was a staple for years when we met in person.

I love that for the first years I was a part of this community, we made our own grape juice.

We did it ourselves, and it was powerful.

We had a term for this we came up with one year at a retreat,
for the fact that we made our own communion elements,
for the fact that at each service, we unpacked out of boxes and made our place.

We called it “tabernacling.”

We build this place ourselves, and we build it new every time.

It was true, but it was also deeper than just a fact.

We are here and we commune in a space built for us.

Not a space we have to fit into,
Not a space we have to ask permission to be in,

but a space built for us.

And the next month it is built for us again.

Which is great, because it gives us a chance to try again, if it wasn’t right

or if there wasn’t enough space.

It is a process that reminds us to keep trying
instead of settling into comfortable.

If there’s a time when “unsettled” is the rule,

it’s a pandemic.

Eighteen months into pandemic, I feel like it is common for many of us,
this feeling:
. . . that we are not actually doing as well as we are letting on . . .

Maybe this is the time to embrace what it means
to be trying something new every time.

I was talking to a friend the other day and we agreed
that we are kinda just barely keeping it together.

We fear: what comes next?

Maybe what comes next is easier to hold knowing that in our communion,

it doesn’t matter if we fall apart—

we are going to build it new again

every time.

Communion over Zoom is nothing if not new every time.

I can’t tell you all the foods I have used for communion these past eighteen months:

a slice of mango,

Sometimes the bread part is grapes and I am sure the grape juice part will eventually be beer.

All of this becomes sacred in the moment.

Last month when we met I had COVID,

and the phrase from our communion liturgy “Smell, taste as you create” lands differently when you can’t really smell, and everything you taste tastes rotten.

I am still building meaning out of that.

I have a Bible study that I am part of,

a group of trans folx that meets once a month and . . .

occasionally reads the Bible.

Recently, we have mostly just been . . .hanging out,
because “communion,” in the sense of gathering and being together,
being in communion,
is the sacred we need right now.

In that group we have a communion ritual:

we all bring something that is sacred or meaningful to us,

a food we love,
a drink we have precious memories of,
or maybe just something that’s part of our everyday life, our daily bread,
in the form of a breakfast sandwich from the bodega

and we offer it as the elements of communion.

And together we share each of these things, and it reminds us of two things:

One, that we deserve to be part of the sacred too, and the things that are important to us, they are sacred as well.
And two, that maybe we don’t actually know all the things that were at the table for the Last Supper.

We know what a Passover meal looks like, of course, but maybe one of the disciples brought something a little different, a little queer, to the table. And they decided, “Fuck it, let’s include that too!”

I think about this ritual,
about the random, or maybe not so random, things I have had for communion during this time,
about tabernacling,

and there is a similar energy in all of them,

and it’s super queer.

I think, as we meet on Zoom, we are still building it new each time.
I think we are still showing up saying this thing, right here, is sacred,
and I think we are still figuring out. And honestly,

I kinda hope we never stop doing these things.

I hope we never say, “Okay, now we have it all figured out.”

Because this here is the communion, us together.

The people who came tonight
brought the things with them this specific time.

And this is what we are using to make Church today.
This is what we are claiming as holy.

The gifts of God.

For the people of God.

Manna from Above, ink on paper, Jennifer Bunge

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