Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Communion Line

It will be time to stand up soon.

Sometimes close to an hour has passed before I get to move from my place in the pew on a Sunday morning. I have sat there and for stretches of time knelt and occasionally stood; I have sung hymns and listened to readings and recited the Nicene Creed; I have exchanged greetings with the other people in my pew and in the pews in front of me and behind.

I have gone through something similar most Sundays of my life. There was a time when my parents and my brothers were the people to the left or right of me in the pew. There were years when classmates from seminary flanked me. For most of my adult life, however, I have entered a church alone on Sunday morning.

On some occasions I have gotten to look out on the pews and the people in them from the vantage point of the sanctuary. When I perform the duties of a Eucharistic minister, I raise a host as each fellow parishioner steps forward in the communion line. It is something to see one face and then the next and then still another as the line moves toward me.

It is another experience to be in the line. Being in the line is my experience most Sundays these days.

To be in the line, I have to know when to stand up. I stay aware of the people who have been sitting to my left and to my right. Sometimes I have to step over their feet if they are not heading where I am going.

Stepping into the aisle, I may know the person ahead of me in line or I may not. I may know the person behind me or not. I do not need to know either. My glance can sweep over the people already returning to their pews after receiving communion. From the time I was a small child, however, I knew it was better not to let myself be distracted from what I was doing.

What am I doing? That was the stuff of many a grammar school religion class. The early instruction focused on how to hold my hands, at what pace to walk, where to look. Fifty years later I retain a sense that when I enter that aisle, I am joining a walk that is more than getting myself from one location in the church to another.

In recent months, I do not usually enter the aisle alone.

In recent months, I have learned what it feels like when I know a person wants to walk before me or behind me in just this line. In a few minutes, when we return to our places in the pew, we will each of us be aware that the walk was about more than our getting ourselves somewhere in the church and back.

The walk was about getting back to ourselves. Together.

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