Recently I was in a conversation at a staff meeting regarding our Communion teams. Someone in the congregation had expressed concern that they did not sanitize their hands prior to serving the bread and the cup. As we continued to discuss whether this was necessary and how we might offer such a precaution I found a feeling of frustration and disbelief floating up inside of me. “Really? We want people to squirt sanitizer on their hands before they serve us communion? Really?”
Fast-forward a few days later—I am at a brunch with friends kicking off the New Year and we are sharing our various Christmas stories. One friend then relays how she was at a Christmas Eve service where they handed out baskets of individually pre-wrapped servings of communion wafers and wine. Peel back layer one for the wafer, peel back layer two for the wine. No germs, no messiness—take this in remembrance of me and then toss.
This has me thinking—why do we feel the need to make communion clean? What makes us want to eliminate all human contact from the process of sharing in a central piece of our collective story?
The acts that we do within our worshiping context are formative acts, in that they form us into the people of God. Communion is significant for this reason—its significance goes beyond word or explanation. Regardless of our various theological underpinnings, for all of us Communion is an act of consuming and digesting our faith. We see, smell and taste this act of faith. How we do it matters. How we do it forms us into a people.
The problem with sanitizing communion is that it removes the subversive act of making us a people connected by the grace of God. These are the gifts of God—gifts of grace and forgiveness, of sacrifice and love, of healing and acceptance—and we cannot give these gifts to ourselves. These gifts are for the people of God—the people brought together by God, to worship, proclaim and reveal God. We do these things as a collective people, not merely as individuals. When we remove human contact, including the potential for human germs, we become a people far more concerned with the individual than with the collective. In a hyper-individualistic society, the act of a people giving and receiving holy gifts collectively is a subversive act that can change how we live in the world—which is the point of faith anyway, isn’t it?
So, how do you think Communion shapes us? What ways does your community incorporate Communion? How do you see it as counter-cultural or subversive?