The Highest Points of Synod Assembly
Last year, the worship experiences were the high points of Synod Assembly, and this year was no different. On Saturday night, we experienced a Taize service which was beautiful and soothing and quiet. I was familiar with most of the music, but the beauty of Taize music is that you don't have to be musical to pick up the songs quickly. The room was lit with low lights, all the better to focus on the banner of an Orthodox presentation of Jesus in the front and the candle in front of the banner. The only thing that would have made this service better would have been if we could have been splashed with holy water on our way out, the way Compline ends at Mepkin Abbey (a Trappist monastery in South Carolina where I occasionally go for a different kind of retreat). It was a little jarring to finish the service and to go out into brightly fluorescent hotel hallways, with people having fierce discussions about the sexuality statements.
Of course, the Eucharist services were a highlight all their own. I love communing with huge numbers of people. But even better, I got to assist with Communion during the first night's Opening Eucharist service. Apparently, the person who was going to offer the grape juice didn't show up. On his way to the serving station, Pastor Keith tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I need you."
I don't need to be asked twice. I hopped right up and the other pastor handed me the grape juice. More people preferred wine to grape juice, but it was still deeply meaningful to me to participate. I am always moved to tears by the vast variety of people within our Synod, all of us sharing some common beliefs. I am moved to tears by realizing that this sacrament has lasted over 2000 years, and it binds us with Christians that have come before and Christians who will come long after we're gone.
Most of all, I love being part of a church which tries so hard to include lay people. I love being part of a church which wrestles with the best ways to include the dispossessed. Not every church would have allowed me to be part of the Opening Eucharist service: I'm not ordained, and I'm a woman. Those two items would have excluded me from that prominent role of serving the elements in many a Protestant and Catholic service.
Our ELCA church is far from perfect. But I admire the way the church makes attempts, sometimes lurching, towards becoming a better manifestation of God's Kingdom here and now, in whatever idol-filled places we find ourselves.