For the past few weeks I have been praying an adaptation of a prayer written by Trappist monk and priest Thomas Merton. I invite you to pray it with me:
Lord God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us, and we cannot tell for certain where it will end, nor do we really know ourselves. And the fact that we think we are following Your will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please You does in fact, please You. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire and we know that if we do this, You will lead us by the right road that we may know nothing about it. Therefore, we will trust You always. Though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death we will not fear for You are ever with us and You will never leave us to face our struggles alone. Amen.
Like many of you, I miss deeply gathering in person as the body of Christ. Like many of you, I miss deeply gathering around the altar and sharing the Holy gifts of God with one another.
As we entered this season of COVID-19 church leaders, bishops, priests, deacons, lay leaders scrambled to meet the adaptive challenge before us. Several weeks ago, word came from the presiding Bishop about what options were not on the table in terms of worship. One of those was communion to go. The other was the idea of virtual communion. That is me blessing something here, and you having your elements, and they being blessed virtually. Other than that, the presiding Bishop said it was up to each diocesan Bishop to decide what they would do about worship in this season.
I prayed long and hard over this. I wanted to avoid a few things. I wanted to avoid the cheapening of Eucharist, but I also wanted to avoid what professor James Farwell called the fetishizing of Eucharist. I wanted to avoid the commodification of Eucharist. And I also wanted to avoid the privatization of Eucharist. And while many in other dioceses have accepted the aspect of spiritual communion, I refrained from that for this reason. While Holy communion is deeply spiritual. It is also deeply personal and intimate. Holy Eucharist is not simply about the breaking of bread. It’s about the sharing of the bread, the offering of bread to all of us who are gathered around the table as the body of Christ, receiving the body of Christ. Holy Eucharist is deeply incarnational. And ultimately I decided that morning prayer would be our mode of worship as a gesture of hospitality.
To me, Holy communion is not for the sacred few, or those of us with Holy hands. Holy Eucharist is for everybody. And until we’re at a place, until we are in a new season where we can share Holy Eucharist with everybody, I have decided that instead we will mind the deep riches of our prayer tradition. Because I actually believe that we are not being called in this adaptive moment to simply recreate what we have known. I believe we are called to explore the riches of what it means to be the body of Christ. To mine the depth of our prayer tradition. To understand so much more about what it means for us to be church, together.
In this adaptive moment we are all being challenged. And that prayer from Thomas Merton is so powerful to me because it reminds me that, that all we are called to do in this moment is take the next faithful step. Even though the path is not clear, even though there’s so much uncertainty, you and I are being called to take the next faithful step. And I have been so blessed to join you in prayer, in morning prayer. I have been so blessed to be able to hear your sermons, to hear you all praying with and for one another.
And I ask you to continue this curious, hopeful, prayerful discernment of how we are church together. Knowing that God is with us on this journey every step of the way. Amen.