Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Communion Revisited: the Changing Church

I have been getting wonderful letters from friends near and far about whether or not I should take communion at church services tonight.

The most common response: What is the big deal???????????? Take communion!!!!!!!!!!

But this is a big deal. A group of devout and committed Christians at a community of faith want to offer communion to me, a witchy/pagany person with a deep love of Christian theology/thealogy. I have spent many years vaguely saying, well, no your polity doesn't permit me to participate in communion, and I've been ok - though questioning - with the national church's position. In discussions this week, however the conversation has moved significantly.

Members of East Liberty Presby are saying to me, that despite national polity, their own definitions of themselves as Christian demands they offer me - or anyone who wants to participate - communion. These church members are taking a radical stand, not a "who cares?" liberal one. Instead, these church women (so far all are women) are saying that the definition of church that they ascribe to Jesus' ministry is an open one.

This is a meaningful change.

Twenty five years ago I remember a frightened Lutheran deaconess inviting me to her home for dinner, in great trepidation. Growing up and attending Missouri Synod Lutheran church and college (Missouri Synod Lutherans still don't ordain women), she was knowingly inviting an outspoken, tarot-reading pagan to her table. She was concerned for her personal salvation, worried she was risking her life in heaven by just knowing me. At the same time, other Christian friends worried about introducing me to their church homes, worried about my polluting their services, worried about introducing me to their families. In college, professors outright rejected my participation in their classes. At the University of Edinbugh, the Dean of the Divinity School had to intervene when a professor flunked a research paper I did on Wisdom and the use of the name of Sophia for Jesus (despite many theologians doing so already).

I first volunteered at East Liberty Presbyterian Church 15 years ago. I loved the place. Homeless shelter in the basement; food bank for the neighborhood; arts programs for children; sponsors of Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian choir; multiracial congregation. It is a family legend that my son said, on his first day in Sunday School: "I wike this place; there are Bwown people like me." When my youngest baby cried during service, people of all races, classes and orientations cheerfully told me not to worry and stay in service and that my baby's crying bothered no one. Once that daughter hit Sunday School age, I spent two years helping in the nursery.

It is AMAZING that this same group of people are not now saying, oh, we'll give you communion through the back door."

They are Christians saying "you are welcome to communion no matter what." That is a huge change from 25 years ago, and from many Christian communities today. The women offering me communion are making a very huge assertion about ecclesiology, and what is the very nature of church. They are intentionally creating a different Christian community. And hot damn for them.

Tonight is my night with Ord Brighideach, the international community that welcomes all people of any faith to light candles regularly for Bridget. (you can define her as saint/goddess/deva/god/deity/spirit as you choose) I have for weeks been looking forward to lighting Bridget's candles and then going to Christmas eve candlelit services at East Liberty Presby.

And tonight I'm gonna take communion. Which the church is openly and knowingly offering.

And it is a big deal.

No comments:

Post a Comment