The man sat far left of me in our sparsely populated sanctuary. The elders passed communion — in a safe, combined peel and partake cup where the wafer and juice were tucked between two layers of thin plastic. I watched as he struggled to open the elements; then he wrestled with his mask to partake of the bread and wine.
There was something profoundly holy in that moment.
This man, who sat alone, socially distanced from others, had come to church with his mask on, sang and worshiped with his mask on, listened to the message with his mask on, and had now come to the table—as it was—and fought to let that holy communion, that bread and wine find its way to his mouth—all the while, trusting in Jesus to do with those common elements—whatever HE alone can do.
There were many thoughts that swirled in my head.
First: It is stunningly holy that in the middle of pandemic, men and women, children and the elderly, gathered together 6-feet apart, wearing masks and shields to worship their Lord. It isn’t easy wearing those masks, yet there we were—obeying the Lord to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together—so deep is our longing for community within the Church.
Second: It is strikingly holy that this man was willing to struggle to partake of the bread and wine. It is awkward and feels odd to peel away the communion elements. Yet there we all were—feeling uncomfortable—but more desperate for Jesus and community than perhaps we’ve been in years. We are all longing for communion—the communion of the saints and the presence of Christ. We were there together seeking the balm of the Holy Spirit uniting us as one holy Church.
Third: It is soberingly holy that in order to take the elements, we had to remove our masks—spiritually speaking. We tugged at our sin, our sorrow, our suffering and sought to lay it all bare before the one who heals. And there, with open face—we ate. We dined on Christ, on hope, on faith, on trust, grieving and letting go of our common practices, and unmet dreams, and we chose to embrace what is—not what we hoped would be.
Finally, the Church is gloriously holy. It is set apart for Christ. It is meant for worship and encouragement, for building up, not tearing down. It is intended for service and love. Things are not what we wish, but one can still experience the communion of the saints as we sit together in the sacrifice of awkward worship and communion, pray for one another, and ask ourselves, how can I serve Christ and his beloved Church during this pandemic.
It is stunningly beautiful to do so.
(Our church has sought to provide the best of all safety practices, even putting in a new circulation system to care for the flock. We wear masks, socially distance, and are ushered in with great care. It’s not what it was, but it is what it is, and may the Lord help us through it all as we are faithful to him and to one another in love. Let’s find ways to serve the body, even as we socially distance.)
Please, if you feel unsafe to gather–don’t. This is simply the joy I felt to be with others–even though it felt awkward.