Last night I curated the small liturgical Holy Communion service I do once a month. I went through an interesting process in the lead up to it, one that I go through from time to time. You see, last night, as with most nights I do it, it was a very small group. There were three adults (not including myself) and one child. I value each of them immensely, but my ego would like there to be more people.
Aside from the leadership of the church I attend and a couple of people in the congregation there has been little interest in the service (to ward off any possible thought in this direction, allow me to say I have no ill feeling about it). Because of that and the really low attendance numbers I’m continually subjected to the internal question I pose to myself – why do I bother?
That question was front and center in my mind as I drove to the venue last night and as it came very close to 7:30 (the start time) with nobody there. At that moment just before a car appeared in the car park, I was facing the question of whether I should pack up and go home or go through the liturgy and take Communion myself – a personal devotional time. I had committed to doing it by myself. I struggle with that because a lot of what I love about Holy Communion is the union with others as we partake in the presence of Christ.
As I led the liturgy in that room with those people last night though, the same thing happened that happens every time I do it – whether it be in that space or any of the other places I do it with other people like the mums I meet with once a month out in the west of the city I live in, or the homes I have done it in for others – I was extremely moved. Working through the liturgy of Holy Communion is the space where I get anywhere near close to the emotionalism often associated with Pentecostalism. The words cut to the core of my being as the Holy Spirit reminds me every single time of who I am, who God is and the nature of our union through Christ. It never gets old.
Having the small attendance forces me to remember that ultimately it’s first and foremost about that union through participation in the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion. For me it’s also about participating in that with others as we unite with the universal Church throughout history because we who are many share the one body, but there only needs to be two or three gathered for that to become meaningful.
If we subject this service to the desired outcomes and measures of a church growth model then it’s currently an abject failure. I’m coming to the realisation that for me, at this time, that’s actually a good thing (and some may hear this as a simple rationalization of poor performance… and I don’t care if that’s how some hear it) because if it were to gain a sizable attendance I know my ego would quickly make it about that audience and less about the liturgy and Holy Communion. Where it’s at is where it needs to be and if that were to change then so be it, but I will remain faithful to the liturgy and Holy Communion for their own sake, not for the sake of an audience – because it’s those things that move me, it’s those things that facilitate the chance I have to participate in the presence of Christ in those times, not the numbers in attendance to participate in that union with me. Sure, I wish to serve others by curating that same participation in the presence for them, but it’s up to others to choose whether or not that’s a service they desire and if not, so be it. My sense of being should not rise and fall on the choices others make when it comes to Holy Communion – my sense of being should derive from my own participation in it.
Last night my ego needed to be checked in at the door when participating in the liturgy and Holy Communion. May it continue to be so.