Last Sunday in worship, one of our new members helped with communion. Now this, in itself, is not unusual because I want people to help with church. I encourage them to work in church to make it successful. Ultimately, it is the congregation that makes church succeed. When (in my more delusional moments) I think it is me, I am reminded harshly – even gently – it is God and the congregation making us thrive.
Anyway, on Sunday, our new member, confined to a motorized wheelchair, with one arm that barely works, held the bread in his working hand for all the congregation to come forward to partake. As they came forward, I offered a healing blessing with oils at the back of the church. The two serving communion – one in a wheelchair, the other who works for Partners in Progress (PIP) a community organization for individual with special needs – were in themselves unusual. Even so, the most unusual part came toward the end of communion.
In our congregation, we serve those who cannot come forward in their seat. This being the custom, our new young member wheeled his chair to the pew where a 92-year-old woman waited for communion. As he got to her, he adjusted the chair so that she would not have to reach too far, and held out the bread as far as his arm could reach. She took her piece and then, from our PIP server, took the juice cup. After he finished serving this woman he wheeled back and she walked back to serve each other and wait for me to come back from anointing.
I, standing in the back of the church watched this, then continued watching as the communion serving played itself out. First, our wheelchair-bound young man held out the bread to his co-server, she took her piece and consumed her juice, then she took the bread and offered it to him. At that point, he needed more help to get the bread and juice so another congregation member that works at PIP came forward to help. I could only stare as these three helped each other with this sacred meal.
As a church planter when I came to north central Pennsylvania, I expected to attract the liberal-minded professors and their families to our new church. For the most part, they have stayed away in droves. What we have is the most diverse congregation in the county. We have diversity in race, education, income, ability, disability, age and singing ability (I am low here). We have the best musician you can find who seems – though he is going through a spiritual crisis – to really like our congregation.
I was relating my intention to write this blog to a friend this morning as we drove to Galeton and she reminded me of her favorite line: “If you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.”
What I need to end with is this: our congregation is small – growing – but small. Yet, we have the biggest hearts of any congregation I have ever known. If church is about everything and everyone being part of God's place, then we ARE church. And I thank God that we are!