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  • Writer's pictureLily Rockwell

Communion and a Review of "Searching for Sunday", Author Rachel Held Evans

Stillwater Meeting House, Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative)

Some of you might be familiar with recently deceased writer and speaker Rachel Held Evans. She was 37 years old when she passed away the end of April from unexpected medical complications. I was first introduced to her blog in 2011, by a friend while I lived in Washington, D.C. I have read several of her blog posts and a couple of her books since then.

When I was in graduate school in New Mexico, Evans asked her readers to submit stories, poems, prose, songs, etc. for possible inclusion in a book she was writing that is now published, Searching for Sunday. It is about finding the Church through sacraments. Sacraments. Merriam-Webster defines sacrament as "a Christian rite that is believed to have been ordained by Christ and that is held to be a means of divine grace or to be a sign or symbol of a spiritual reality."

Ohio Yearly Meeting, which is known as Conservative Quakers, (versus evangelical versus Friends General Conference versus Friends United Meeting) would be considered the orthodox group of Quakers. As a rule, they do not believe in outward or physical rituals and rites.

During high school, the Lord blessed me by putting people in my life to teach me about Communion or The Lord's Supper. Following is what I wrote in response to Evans' request for reader contributions to her book. I did not submit it but have kept a hold of it to share at the appropriate time and with the appropriate people. Perhaps that time and place have come. The prose is about Communion, the significance it has come to have to me, and my experience of not having rituals within Ohio Yearly Meeting.

The Old Brick Walls

"Sh" whisper the old brick walls.

You won't find a cup within these walls,

Nor grape juice,

Nor bread.

"It's all spiritual." loud words shout.

"It's only a ritual!" they scream.

"Meaningless, meaningless." the words echo,

Louder and louder.

"We commune with the Lord." they said.

"We commune with the Spirit." they said.

"It is with the Spirit," whisper the old brick walls,

"not the physical."

The cup,

The bread,

The grape juice.

Physical reminders of Jesus' death,

Of grace poured out at the cross,

Of mercy given to the sinner.

"Physical reminders that are not found here."

Whisper the old brick walls.

"The old brick walls do not know

That the Spirit is present

In the cup,

In the bread,

In the grape juice,

As we remember our Lord."

Whispers an elder.

"The old brick walls

Do not know

The power with which the Spirit descends

As the follower, disciple, servant

Reminds his brothers and sisters

How Jesus took the bread

And broke it

And said, 'This is my body, broken for you.

Eat it in remembrance of Me.'

How Jesus took the cup

And blessed it

And said, 'This is my blood poured out for many.

Drink it in remembrance of Me.'"

Whispers a recorded minister.

"The old brick walls

Do not know

The depth of God's love

For another,

Realized when a brother,

A sister

Offers the cup,

The bread,

And declares,

'The body of Christ broken for thee.'

'The blood of Christ shed for thee.'"

Whispers a not-so-weighty Friend.

"The old brick walls

Do not know

That the Spirit is present

In the cup,

In the bread,

In the grape juice."

Whispers a Friend who knows

That the spirit is present

In the physical

And the spiritual;

In the rituals

And the non-rituals.

"Sh" whisper the old brick walls.

"We do not know;

We have not seen

The Spirit at work

In the cup,

In the bread,

In the grape juice,

But we have heard

Friends whispering

Of the power,

Of the grace,

Of the mercy,

Of the love

With which the Spirit descends

When the cup,

The bread,

The grape juice

Are within other walls.

When disciples, followers, servants

Remember Jesus' life,

And death,

And resurrection,

And live within that Life,

And Light,

And Power."

Like Evans, I have plenty of critiques of the church I grew up in, Ohio Yearly Meeting. I am continuing to learn and grow in Christ. I realize that there is not a perfect church. We have to wait until we go to our heavenly home for that. However, I think it is important to realize the good things each church offers and to encourage each other to walk more closely with Christ. I think the different denominations exist, at least in part, because of the creative variations in which there are to worship God. Yet it is not good to "throw the baby out with the bath water". I suspect that there are plenty of churches that could more critically examine their rituals and let go of those that do not serve to draw people closer to God. I also suspect that there are people who, if allowed, could be drawn closer to God through those same rituals. Who am I to deny someone from coming to The Lord's Table? I might have a responsibility to share instructions of how to take it which are found in the New Testament. Those of us who partake in different sacraments have a responsibility to find meaning and significance in them, to allow us to be drawn closer to Christ, and to be changed so that He may increase and we may decrease in our own lives.

When I read Searching for Sunday, I was blessed but also very challenged by what was written. I do not hold the same views of some things, some issues, that Evans does. However, I was encouraged to keep asking hard questions of myself and others. I was reminded of all of the good things the Church has to offer, namely Jesus Christ and the redemptive work that He does in each life that turns to Him. It is not easy being in such close relationships with people who often look, act, and are so very different from me. It is hard to give them grace and not to judge them or try to change them. I am glad that Evans reminded me that I am not alone in this journey of being a part of the Church and I am grateful for the hope she gave me for the Church, including Ohio Yearly Meeting.

My relationship with Ohio Yearly Meeting continues to change over the years. It is so easy to be critical and judgmental because they do not embrace ways of worshiping and doing and being that other churches do. It is also so easy to show up for Meeting for Worship and be so grateful for the faithfulness of a few people to continue to hold space for waiting worship of the Lord. It is so easy to settle into the silence and quiet my mind and my spirit and rest in God's presence. There are few places and spaces for this type of refreshment in the Lord. It is a precious gift that the rest of the Church could greatly benefit from.

I learned to hear God's voice in the stillness and when I arrived to a Nazarene college and chapel, I found I could hear Him in the noise, too. It took perhaps a little bit of practice and was a little more challenging, but His voice was there too. I learned how to commune with God in Spirit at Meeting for Worship. As I learned about Communion in high school and college, I learned how powerful adding physical elements to that spiritual communion could be.

I have had a vast array of experiences with Communion. I have taken it by intinction where I often remember the journey I have been on with God as I walk to the front of the church to receive a piece of bread torn from the loaf and dip it into the same cup the rest of the worshipers dip theirs into. I have taken it by the usual passing of the bread and small cups up and down the pews. I have been given several ounces of grape juice in a plastic cup and a big hunk of bread as the chaplain wanted us to physically experience the abundance of God's grace and mercy and love poured out for us. The Methodist church I am currently attending cuts their bread into the shape of a cross. This past winter, I took Communion using fresh matzha with a group of ladies as we concluded our study of food in the Bible.

The people that surround the Lord's Table make participating in this sacrament even more special. College friends, family, acquaintances, strangers - even boyfriends - have all brought more meaning to this ritual for me. For instances, I remember watching two family members reconcile before taking Communion, probably on a Christmas Eve.

So, what has been thy experience of Communion? Of other sacraments? How are you "searching for Sunday"?

(The post contains affiliate links. If you use them, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only choose products I think are beneficial to you and either have purchased or would consider purchasing.)

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