Monday, June 30, 2008

communion: a step too far?

This was what I did for worship at Grow last nite:


– white cloths to close off part of the church foyer
– two slide images, one titled “life”, the other a Coptic church icon,
– communion at end, lit by scented candle
– on black squares on way up were post-it stickers, naming various “black areas of our life” – various sins against creator, redeemer, sustainer
– on white squares on way back were another set of post-it stickers with various “white areas of our life” – fruit and gifts of Spirit
– we read a confession of belief
– then people were invited to walk up, considering the black squares and allowing Spirit to search them,
– to enjoy communion and
– to walk back, considering the white squares and the fruit and gifts of Spirit we might need for week ahead.
Updated: playing Radiohead’s “Everything in it’s right place”

I wanted to avoid a rush and squash, so suggested people walk up one by one, and those gathered pray for the person as they walked.

I was quite pleased with the space. But only about half the people responded. Which is not normal. Was it a step too far? too much focus on the individual? And if so, does it matter? Could there be times when we invite people into a more challenging practise of communion?

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM


  1. Hi friend. Not sure if this is the issue, but I’ve been struck recently by how many people see communion as a huge deal… and largely because they know it’s more than just a tokenistic churchy thing to do, but they really don’t know what exactly. It’s almost like they sense the weight of it, but don’t quite understand. When I’ve taught into that, people have really responded.

    Comment by Rich Johnson — June 30, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  2. not sure how comfortable i am with all the ‘black is bad’ stuff

    also, as you suggest, there is an important corporate element missing that i would find it difficult to ‘enjoy communion’ without

    also, i agree that part of communion is a sober reflection on ourselves and our failings, but where that becomes affirming of people’s sense of shame and guilt rather than an opportunity to celebrate the reality of transformation then i think we have lost something important – there seems to be little difference between what people had to actually do on their way to or from communion – stepping to the dark side and walking through that shadow is a pretty powerful act physically – it might take a lot for some people to step forward into that position – maybe they didn’t feel brave enough to do that ? maybe just taking communion normally is enough of a challenge for many people, given how poorly they feel about themselves ?

    Comment by julie — July 1, 2008 @ 4:45 am

  3. hi julie,

    for me, inviting people to pray as people walked up made it quite a corporate experience.

    tell me more about why you struggle with the “black as bad”? i had written things like pollution, listening to bad messages – all things that IMHO are areas that reduce our potential to live into fullness of life.

    i would loved to have made the white twice as long as the black, cos light trumps dark, but could not make it happen,


    Comment by steve — July 1, 2008 @ 7:52 am

  4. yes that would have made it a very corporate experience – but maybe still a bit embarrassing for some – maybe they don’t want to open themselves up to that much attention ?

    sometimes black people get tired of the bad label – i get the light and dark – i get the reduction of potential – i get it – it is really good – just not the being black still means guilty by association with a colour – i try to avoid doing that when i can

    longer in the light would have been great – longer in the light together would have been even better

    i like what you were trying to do – it is challenging – made me think a lot – but i also think that i would have been one of the ones not taking that walk – not on my own anyway

    thanks for helping me to think some more about this, peace, julie

    Comment by julie — July 1, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  5. i’m with julie on this – i find most people are uncomfortable being watched when they’re doing something in worship [and i get that, because i am too].

    Comment by cheryl — July 1, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  6. great feedback. really appreciated

    this whole thing was highly intuitive – just sort of rolled together creating it over about an hour, using what i had – found the roll of lino in a back cupboard etc. fascinating how complex it becomes – colour, being watched.

    take home lesson – much easier to sing songs, 🙂 lets stand shall we …. 🙂


    Comment by steve — July 1, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  7. Are you able to find out what people were thinking when they choose not to move??? They may not have moved (on the outside) but still found it a moving (on the inside) experience.

    Comment by KSW — July 1, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

  8. Can I make another comment??? I like the mood lighting… But not sure that I could read words which were on the floor written on a post-it note…

    Comment by KSW — July 1, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  9. I thought I’d feedback as one of those who did not respond at the time. Due to my tremor I am not able to walk slowly and lean forward enough to read the post-it notes, yet I wanted to be part of it. I then had to make a choice – either walk it quickly and not get the benefit of engaging with the notes on the black and white squares, or wait and do it on my hands and knees later. A friend with me was aware of my dilemma and chose to support me by waiting. After the benediction we went and slowly crawled the path to and from the communion. It was a very powerful exercise to do and it was actually beneficial to do it without onlookers because we had the luxury of time to really connect with what was written on the post-it notes.

    I’m wondering also whether some people hesitated because it was more of an ‘adult space’ (using your description of soak), it involved more of a commitment to grow by interacting and reflecting on their own journey and what God might be saying to them.

    Thank you for your time and the thinking that went in to setting up communion like this. I think it doesn’t hurt us to be challenged from time to time by experiencing communion in different ways.


    Comment by jenn — July 1, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  10. yay jenn. thanks very much.

    KSW, lighting was complex – to see slide images you need it dark, to see the post-it notes you need it light. can’t do both without spots on each post-it.

    in the end i went for darker and was fascinated to watch how people bent down to look. it was an unexpected twist that i thought added richness to it all, in the sense of inviting the body to bend in prayer.

    i am continuing to ponder the “people are uncomfortable being watched doing worship.” i am sifting through what this might say theologically and also sifting through other moments in worship. when we invite people up for communion at a rail is that “being watched”? or baptism?

    for me, the thought that as i walked, i was being prayed for by those watching was actually very comforting.

    this is a fascinating conversation – thankyou all,


    Comment by steve — July 1, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

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