By: Brent Bailey
I remember the first time I knew we were on to something.
The “we” in that sentence was a house church with whom I’d been meeting for about three months. The “time” happened once we’d developed a fairly consistent rhythm for our weekly gatherings, which included eating together, encouraging one another, listening to God, and sharing communion. As was our custom, we passed the bread and the juice around the circle, each of us extending words of blessing along with the elements: “The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ that sets you free.” On this particular night, I was seated next to Natalia, the youngest child in our community, who took her turn in the order and spoke directly to me with delicate, quiet grace: “The body of Christ. The blood of Christ.”
I grew up participating in churches that treasured the practice of communion, enacting it weekly and often structuring entire worship services in such a way as to make it the climactic moment of the assembly. I learned that sharing in this feast we identified as a remembrance was inextricably connected to who we were as a body and what we wanted to be about when we gathered. The care and solemnity that accompanied the sacrament taught me more powerfully than any sermon could that sharing the body and blood of Christ was a momentous event.
Because of how much we treasured the practice, those churches had long conversations about how to do it properly: what kind of food comprised the elements, who should or shouldn’t distribute the trays of bread and juice, what we should say and when we should say it. When I transitioned from a large church into a house church, those logistical questions started to feel mostly irrelevant; but even as the form in which I took communion shifted, the weightiness of the practice remained for me. Sharing in this feast was still inextricably connected to who we were as a body, small as we were, and what we wanted to be about when we gathered.
So when this young girl served me communion and spoke the words of blessing to me—something that wouldn’t have happened in the churches where I grew up—I recognized immediately how powerful and extraordinary the moment was. I caught a glimpse, if only fleeting, of what it might mean to “be one in Christ Jesus,” to be part of a community in which there’s “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, [neither] male nor female.” I heard the voice of Jesus in the timbre of Natalia’s soprano and saw his gentleness in her careful attempts to keep the cup from spilling on the carpet. It was entirely ordinary—as ordinary as a family dinner—but it was wondrous and supernatural and glorious, as life in the church ought to be.
That was the moment I knew we were approaching something holy and when I found myself compelled, maybe more than I’d ever felt, to continue pursuing tangible expressions of the body of Christ.