I move within an ecumenical circle. This is a necessity of life – there just aren’t that many Mennonite churches around the world, and the Mennonite evangelicals are almost extinct. The need for companionship and fellowship could become dire if one is not realistic. My latest effort is being trained to be able to serve as a lector during high church services – a position readily available to all within the Protestant traditions, and even for Roman Catholic services – at the discretion of the presiding priest. (No, I do not partake of the Eucharist – I normally only fellowship in communion with fellow Anabaptists.)
|(c) Paul Shaun, 2011|
The keynote speaker for the training was a Catholic thinker from University of Chicago. He presented a very compelling insight – that when an Eucharistic Minister (EM) is distributing the host, he or she will often find themselves out of time, looking at the recipient in a whole new light, often at the hands or the face, noticing signs of the person’s occupation, their life experience, their personality. To my mind, he is describing that moment when two people look at each other deeply for the first time – really getting to know the other – in the case of the EMs, this look is perhaps a small gift from the Holy Spirit – allowing the EM to see the recipient, for just a small moment, the way Christ sees him or her. The speaker encouraged us to take note of these moments and to savor them as a special gift.
I am not an EM, but I am often an usher. The keynote spearker's observations hold just as true for the usher holding a door, distributing a program and welcoming each person to the service. For that smallest moment of contact, the usher also might feel the spiritual fellowship of the Church and welcome each participant not as they see them but as Christ sees them.
What a wonderful way to engage each other.
As Mennonites, we have pondered these things before – it is in reality the intention behind the la bise or the Holy Kiss – an Anabaptist tradition that perhaps we have become a bit too wary of in our contemporary culture. It is a moment to step out of time and notice each other in the Spirit.
The first movement is to notice and receive the impression of the other. Secondly, we might empathize with the short vision we have received – empathize with the work worn hands of the artisan, the frail hands of the elderly, the trembling body of the frail or fearful.
Finally, one completes the act by distributing the wafer and stating “The Body of Christ,” which at this point becomes not just a ritual but a sort of blessing and communion between the Trinity, the recipient and the minister.
Again, the same holds true for the ushers welcoming the congregant or any other form of ministry service during the mass.
I think these observations hold true regardless of the church or the ministry.