I Took Communion for the First Time Today

Written: 3 October, 1999

Went to church again this morning. I asked the pastor if I could take communion, and he said I could. Today was World Communion Sunday, and I wanted to take communion, not be left out, since today communion would be part of the worship service there. (There was no communion last week.)

After attending the pastor's class, where today we mainly talked about possible/debatable appearances of Jesus (God in human form) in the Old Testament, I went to the sanctuary and sat down as people filed in for the service.

This time, of course, there were fewer surprises for me, since I'd been through this before. So, I was ready for the collection plate and contributed, I knew how to use the guestbook, signed it and left my address in it and checked the box indicating my interest in joining the church, knew about the hand-holding bit, etc., etc. I felt like I was getting to be an old hand at this already, and that it felt natural. But it didn't always feel that way. Once or twice I thought to myself "What the heck am I doing here in this place? I'm not the kind of person who goes to church, for Pete's sake!!" But then that feeling would go away and be replaced by a feeling of happiness that I'd found a church where I felt welcomed. I am glad I found my church.

Part of me feels like I'm not a church person -- that I've lived my whole life as a non-church-going person and that's who I am. While another part of me is happy that I've done something that I should have started doing years ago, and that I'm precisely the kind of person who goes to church. It's strange! I figure that my identification as a "non-church person" will gradually fade away as the things associated with church-going become more and more familiar to me.

Anyway, the communion part was the only real question I had as to how it would go. As you know, I'd finally said that I'd be willing to drink wine as part of a church service, and only for that, since I have long avoided alcohol for what I consider moral reasons. But I'd do it if God wanted me to do it. (Don't get scared. I wouldn't go kill somebody if somehow, someway, I got it into my head that God wanted me to do that. No, I simply decided that it wouldn't hurt me to drink wine as part of a solemn church service, and that I'd still refuse it at any occasion outside of church.)

Well, to further show that this church was right for me, here's what happened: During the "children's sermon," the pastor said that what they'd drink in communion would be grape juice. I thought that perhaps he meant that the kids would drink grape juice and that the rest of us would get a choice of wine or grape juice. But no, we all got grape juice. You purists may object, but this was another example to me that I'd found the right church for me.

Here's how the ceremony worked: certain designated people from the audience, who knew in advance they'd be doing this, went up to the altar and got some silver trays which had chopped up pieces of white bread on it. They went to various points in the sanctuary and walked up and down the three main aisles with the trays. They either let the person pick a piece of bread off the tray and eat it, or if there were a few people in that row, simply hand the tray to the first person and they would send it down the row. I picked out a piece of bread and savored it in my mouth for a minute before swallowing. I have to admit that I did feel like it was more than just a piece of bread. Most of the time it just felt like bread, but for a moment or two it felt like Jesus -- crazy as that may sound. I was told that it represented Jesus' body, and it felt like that for a moment. It felt holy.

Then came the juice. Same thing...they went up to the altar to get the trays and then distributed them the same way. Each tray had a bunch of vials (kinda like the cups that come with cough syrup, maybe a little smaller) on it, filled with a dark substance that looked like blood. We held the vials (there were holes to hold the vials at the front of each pew, too, so most people set them there) and waited before drinking them until everyone had one and the pastor led us in saying a blessing or whatever. Then we all drank it but it went down so fast that it didn't feel like blood going down or anything. (Although it looked a bit like blood sitting in the vial, as I said.)

So, that was it. I took communion at church. It wasn't as scary as I thought it might be.