A few years ago, in one of my churches in the Cotswolds, I organised an evening of ‘training’ for people who had volunteered to assist with the administration of Communion. It actually doesn’t require a lot of training but a number of people had said they would be happy to help but were nervous about getting it right.
About twelve of us joined together one cold evening in church with the aim of me showing them how the communion table was laid up and then how we serve others the bread and, especially, the wine. At the beginning of the evening I happened to say that it might be good if we just spoke together about our experience of receiving communion. I meant the practical things about whether we prefer to take the cup from the person, or how we hold our hands, what we were taught etc., but what emerged was a lovely 45 mins or so of people talking about their experience of communion services. Experiences ranged from small, chapel based, informal services at Iona abbey, to great contemporary gatherings at Christian festivals, some people were pretty ‘high’ church, some took a much ‘lower’ view, reflections about what we were doing and why it was important were offered. It was really special and what was truly lovely was that it all happened rather organically and no-one felt compelled to convince others that their experience or preferences were somehow the ‘right’ ones. We listened and shared and learned and reflected about what God was doing.
It seems to me that as we emerge from these last eighteen months, as we move into a new way of being and doing it is important that we find spaces to reflect together about our experiences. I guess for many the pandemic has brought experiences of loss. I know that many have had to work hard to adapt to new ways of doing church (and other things) but I hope that in their there are some real treasures to be shared as well as lamenting on that which is gone, or changed for ever.
I wonder how we, as individuals, as the church, as the wider community, will find space and time to do some of this reflecting. It will be important to listen, to learn from each other, to consider new things and to celebrate our differences and there are many ways that we might like to do this, in church services and from the pulpit, in things like questionnaires and small groups but for now, I want to suggest a smaller, more informal way of doing this. If you are ready to start mixing with others once again, why not invite a few friends, or fellow members of the congregation, or your neighbours round for a coffee or a glass of something and listen to each other. Perhaps one person could pick a topic or theme and each person just to say briefly what their experience is. People may have very different, even opposing experiences, but that doesn’t matter.
I hope that as we begin to emerge from restrictions and lockdowns (even if we have to have a few of these for a little bit longer) that we can celebrate together as well as lament and that we can listen to, and learn from, each other. I would love to hear from you!