Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

I dearly love Tobias. His posts always make me think "beyond myself" in ways I'm not inclined to do without a spur in my flanks. (I also hope he knows I love him despite the fact I teased him for having a "nerd pocket" in a picture on Facebook, complete with notebook and more than one writing utensil.) He enters a very tricky topic, the concept of Communion Without Baptism (CWOB) here and here. I was simply struck by not just the variety of opinion, but with the care and thoughtfulness of the posters on either side of the topic. Very few came off as "overly strident" to me.

I think I have finally reached a conclusion on this topic. The short version is, "Parishes should be allowed to deal with it either way, as long as their way of "dealing with it" is not overly pushy and the "rules" are presented in a way that is couched in the way of an invitation with no strings attached."

First, I'll admit my own "gut" viewpoint on the topic.

I admit that I personally am okay with CWOB. I guess the main thing to me is that the Eucharist is such a special object of mystery, that I believe there is nothing we humans can do to it that can "harm" it. I do not believe giving it to an unbaptized person "cootie-fies" it in any way. Perhaps, quite the opposite. I believe it could very well change that unbaptized person with powers we can't even imagine.

I'll steal from Erika's comment on Tobias' first post on the topic to validate my feelings...

"A personal story: my 11 year old daughter had been very ill for a long time and doctors seemed to be unable to work out what was wrong. One Sunday in church she suddenly stood up with the rest of us and went forward to receive Communion. My wonderful priest must have seen something in her expression and just gave the bread and the wine to her, knowing she was not confirmed.
5 days later, she was diagnosed with leukaemia and started a 3 year intense treatment programme.
I have no idea what made her come forward at that moment, she cannot put it in words either. But I like to think it was a clear call from God assuring her that he was there and that he would be there with her in what was to follow.

God breaks through the barriers we try to erect, even and especially when those barriers are there for good reason. Maybe we should trust him more than we do and try to regulate access to him a little less. After all, the one to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden, knows who truly comes to meet him and who doesn’t, whatever membership badges the church may have bestowed on them. "

Put simply, I believe God can transform people (including the unbaptized) through sacraments. I believe Jesus would never have turned anyone down at the hypothetical rail.

Now, with that said, I believe that there is a certain amount of respect that should be given to consecrated elements. Not that people can put cooties on it, or profane it, but simply that part of appreciating its mystery can be learned through an awareness of it that comes from a "training process." I would never want to give up confirmation classes, despite the fact that my first time through as a 13 year old in a confirmation class was somewhat disastrous. But perhaps we need to change the focus. Confirmation maybe should not be focused on "getting the treat" but as a level of understanding of a bigger picture. If an expectation of baptism or confirmation is part of a parish's understanding of Eucharistic worship, it should still be "inviting" even if you would not be a "wafer-getter."

I'll steal from Kevin M. from Tobias' original post to make that point...

"Personally, (if I were a priest) I don't think I would refuse communion to someone who came forward for it. However, if I knew the person had not been baptized, I'd talk to him or her afterwards about considering being baptized.

I think I'd also put something like this in the bulletin.

"All are welcome to participate in out worship and fellowship. All are welcome to approach the altar of the Lord. All those baptized into the Body of Christ are welcome to receive communion in the Body and Blood of Christ. All those not baptized are welcome to receive a blessing and assurance of God's love, and all those desiring baptism are welcome to speak to a priest about it. All are welcome."

It's a little wordy, but I think it strikes the right balance between giving the expectations but also emphasizing that all are welcome in the church."

Honestly, I can see this both ways and can be okay with it. I have a huge respect for consecrated elements, simply because of what they mean to me. But I will be the first to admit this was "learned" behavior. My problems as a 13 year old in Confirmation class had nothing to do with that; my problem was I asked too many and too tough of questions to be handled in a setting with a class of other 13 year olds, and because I WAS 13 years old, I was rather...um...blunt in how I handled the criticism!

Now, with that said, either option has a caveat for "harm."

In CWOB, the "harm" is that the "unsure" or the one who simply does not feel personally fit for communion, by whatever means their own brain determines "fit", ends up self-segregating. That person is noticed for NOT going to the rail.

In requiring baptism for communion, the "harm" is overt "rules-based exclusion" a la the Pharisees, calling someone out, chiding them, saying "no" in a non-loving way. A loving "No" is not wrong.

I think the defining moment for me to make me decide the Eucharist was bigger than this argument was Lee Davenport's cyberfuneral that was held after his real funeral. We could all discuss/debate/argue for days whether Lee's cyberfuneral had a "real" Eucharist, or whether an Internet-live-time-consecrated Triscuit and dollup of Winking Owl Merlot constituted "consecrated elements." But I know in my heart that was one of the most "real" trips to the rail I have taken in my lifetime. Whether you believe it or not, I simply don't care. The only thing I would care about is if you had the 'nads to tell me that I did something "wrong" or that my soul was in peril for thinking it. THEN, we'd have a scrap!

The bottom line, though, is this can work either way, and perhaps our true duty in this, however we see it personally, or in a parish, is, because of our OWN Baptismal Covenant, to transmit "what the Eucharist is all about" in a loving, inviting way. The Eucharist is bigger than all of us, and no human alive can control or bind its power. Period.

2 comments:

I have nothing to add, other than a hearty "Amen!"

I believe it could very well change that unbaptized person with powers we can't even imagine.¨

Absolutely, great miracles DO occur...even without Eurcharist but when reaching out to God (for a gift of mercy and/or plain HELP!)...I live in a place where most often Holy Eucharist is given by Roman Catholic Priests...I´m not welcome to receive the Sacraments at the Roman Catholic Church but I always remember the ¨Gifts of God for the people of God¨ and go forward...I´m a person of God, end of story (for me). Also, a group of us meets, in the nave but behind closed/locked doors at a colonial period RC Church...a ex RC nun does the service out of the Book of Common Prayer and sometimes the elements are prepared and blessed secretly by R.C. priests for our use. Nobody says much, we just proceed worshipping God.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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