This column first appeared in the September issue of the Anglican Journal.
This summer I had some extraordinary experiences of eucharist in stately cathedral churches, in a teepee set up in a gymnasium in Kingfisher Lake, Ont., and several lovely old parish churches celebrating milestone anniversaries in the service of the gospel.
One celebration I’ll never forget was in the outdoor chapel of St. Francis at the Sorrento Centre on the shores of beautiful Lake Shuswap in the interior of British Columbia.
It was Friday of the third week of programming. Our work, our learnings and our prayers were to be offered up at this eucharist. As everyone gathered, there was an air of anticipation.
Just before the celebration began, the chair of the board of the Sorrento Centre broke the news that its much-loved executive director, Christopher Lind, had died earlier in the day. Many were moved to tears. Chris had helped the centre renew its mission as “a place of transformation-a place for learning, healing and belonging” and had launched a capital campaign with an eye to “The Next Fifty Years.”
I was invited to lead the congregation in prayers and when I finished, the beautiful “Pie Jesu” from Fauré’s Requiem was sung. The Liturgy of the Word and a reflection concluded with everyone singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
At the offertory, a blanket was spread on the ground in front of the altar and the children were invited to come forward and sit. As they came, the priest gave them either a plate of bread or a cup of wine. Kneeling on the blanket with them, he was barely visible, but we could hear him praying the Great Thanksgiving. As he came to the words of institution, Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, we could see a host of little arms holding up the gifts. As he prayed for the Spirit’s blessing that the bread and wine become for us the body and blood of Christ, the children, with great reverence, elevated the gifts.
When the prayer was finished they returned to their families, beaming! After all, they had helped us recall the love of Jesus laid down for all.
Styled as a picnic eucharist, this liturgy had all the flow of good order and every space for the Spirit’s whispering and hovering over bread and wine. It had all the grace of a place for everyone at this sacred meal and all the truth about Jesus’ love for children and their delight in the wonders of God’s love.
Having received holy communion that day, I was moved to ponder afresh how great a mystery it is, and cherish anew this food so awesome and so sweet.