Monday, April 25, 2011

The Communion of Saints

Communion in Protestant churches is supposed to be an inclusive affair.  If you’re there and you don’t want to look like you’re not part of the club, you take it. I was five the first time I noticed that there were snacks for the grown ups in Big Church.  Usually, if we were going to have donuts or cookies, they were out on the patio between services, but this time, it was clear that the grown-ups had eaten without us.  I felt excluded... we only got stale graham crackers and water in Sunday School, but they got grape juice and cake.  Party food!  And it was served in cute little glasses.  Sneaky adults.    

When I asked my mom what the snacks were for, she gave me a lengthy explanation about blood and flesh and wine and bread, that did not seem related to the cake and little glasses.  So I left and went to the playground with my sister Heather to discuss why the cake was cut into such tiny pieces, and how we were going to get some of it.  We figured the deacons would probably put it in the kitchen and if we were going to get some, we should go there.


What luck!  The kitchen was empty!  We found the stacks of little glasses -- (this was when they were still made of glass.) Heather and I decided that if we were going to eat the cake, we ought to do something helpful first, so we rearranged the stacks of glasses like bowling pins on the long kitchen counter.  The cups were small, cool, and hefty.  I wanted to pocket two for my dolls, but after all that blood and flesh stuff, taking them seemed likely to upset someone, although I wasn’t sure why.  Next to the stacks of glasses, was the jackpot!  A leftover plate of diced cake covered in a dish towel.  I nicked a few cubes and tasted them.  They were delicious.  They reminded me of Winchells Donuts’ cream cheese cake.  No wonder the adults kept this treat to themselves.  Heather and I began cramming handfuls of it into our mouths.  Just then (of course), the ladies brigade marched into the kitchen with more glasses and leftover cake.  

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” one bellowed.  “Don’t you KNOW that is the BODY of Christ?”

We cowered, wiped the crumbs off our mouths, and ran.  Later that afternoon, my dad told us, “You know... that’s really not a good idea. Communion bread is not a snack.  Please don’t do that again.”  We didn’t... but we wanted to.  Sometimes we took two or three squares during communion, which was especially justified if they were stuck to each other. And to this day, if I could figure out how to make that bread, I would.  


Whenever we went on vacation, my dad made us go to church.  Chances were good that he’d already met the pastor of someplace nearby and we’d go there, but if not, we’d cruise around looking for something within denomenational firing distance of Presbyterian.  On one trip to the Midwest, all we could find was a Lutheran church, so we crept into the back and sat down in the pews.  The sermon was dry and boring, and my sister and I drew butterflies and flowers on the bulletin to pass the time.  Just when I thought we were finally going to get to leave, in marched the ushers with communion trays.  These were not the soft squares of sweet bread I was used to.  They were papery wafers and they stuck to the roof of my mouth.  In our church, we ate the bread together to symbolize community in Christ, but we could drink the juice whenever we wanted to, to show we were individuals as well.  I could not get my juice down fast enough, but it smelled a little strange, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my mom’s eyes tear up as she shot back her juice.  I lifted it to my mouth and drained the cup.  It was bitter and tannic -- wine!  I tried to swallow, but couldn’t, and when I tried to breathe, I hacked the contents of my little cup and tiny chunks of wafer into the hair of the person in front of me.   She reached back and patted her spattered hair, but didn’t turn around.  As soon as the pastor began his closing prayer, we slunk out the back.

That was the last time we went to a Lutheran church on vacation.  It was a steady stream of Baptist, Presbyterian, or Bible churches after that... anything to ensure grape juice!

3 comments:

Mary said...

Funny stuff.

Julie said...

let me know when you figure out how to make the little cubed bread! btw, you can easily avoid the wine at a Catholic Church- we share the same cup and you can just skip the line without anyone batting an eye (ps- it's not as gross as it sounds...)

stefania said...

You are just an incredible funny writer! I would have loved to know you then, too.