Sunday, June 19, 2011

Eucharistic Minister

I have been a Eucharistic minister at my church for about a year. It is always a wonderful and moving experience. I was first trained as a Eucharistic minister in Southern Caliornia, by a wonderful woman who took the time to tell us what it was all about. In addition to the reverence factor, and how to shuffle a host back into the dish if someone dropped it, she told us, "Don't deal 'em out like cards. Present the host to the person and look the person in the eye. It is a joy to present the Eucharist to another. Don't be too serious and solemn about it." It is not a matter of distributing a bunch of communion wafers as quickly as possible so we can get out of there, it is a sacramental experience. And we are the ministers of this sacrament.

People do genuinely respond when you present the host to them, and generally they approach with a smile. It is a joyful experience for everyone, from mumbling, awkward teens to mothers and fathers with children on their hips to older people. It is also a full experience of community. Our whole community, most of whom you don't ever see, approach the front of the church for communion. What first surprised me, and now continues to gladden my heart, is the number of older farmers. Their hands are grained with dirt, some of their fingers are misshapen or even, occasionally, missing. The act of them putting out their hands and me placing the communion wafer in their palms is, truly, art.

This morning one of the other Eucharistic ministers was a man whose house was foreclosed on several months ago, after a long battle. He had told us about a recent experience when his car broke down. He was walking home from where he'd had to abandon the car and a man from the parish picked him up. Together, they made arrangements for the car, and then this man drove him home. About a half hour later, the man showed up at the apartment and gave the man whose home had been foreclosed on $300 in cash. Knowing what I do, about how this man has struggled with his own business and his wife has been downsized, I found this story quite affirming. This morning, I watched the man who had given the money receive communion from the man who received that earlier gift, very matter of fact and as it is done each week. It only caught my attention for a moment, then I turned and offered communion to his wife, a woman I used to work with and whom I admire very much.

There are times when you feel the privilege of being part of a community, and this was one.

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