This Easter Day, once again, I explained the change to the congregation. “We’re using real bread today, and we’ll do so throughout this fifty-day-long season. For those of you more accustomed to wafers, you’ll see what we mean in this place when we talk about Jesus, the Risen Lord, as the ‘bread of life.’ I’ll be honest; frankly, these dry wafers don’t really communicate this spiritual truth, so join us for this seven week season, and thank you!” I said the same thing the following Sunday, too, taking a guess that those Easter Egg Hunts and candy might’ve clouded their hearing the week before.
Some years ago, I baked the bread. The recipe was good, but not great. The last three years, however, a member of our congregation has volunteered to be our Easter-tide baker. She has an awesome recipe for dinner rolls – multiply it a few times and, voila!, out of her oven emerges some big, delicious loaves, one loaf pretty much taking care of each Sunday morning service. I used to give smaller, wafer-sized pieces, but having so much extra bread leftover afterward seemed to unravel the symbol. I started giving larger chunks. Kids and bread-lovers adore the symbolism and, indeed, the actual experience of receiving communion. Even those few leftover bits hardly stick around, not even seconds after the worship is ended; such is the throng of children sticking around to help the altar guild clean the credence table, clamoring for ‘more bread!’ Those more accustomed to wafers put up with the season. Nowadays, wafers are back.
I have a lot of memories growing up in my home church, but one of them rises above the others, reminding me that church, for me, really was a special place, a place where the living God was made known to me, not through any particularly churchy or adult traditions but through an open space in which I could, and did, grow. A stay-at-home dad in our congregation loved to bake bread. His two daughters were around my age, and he and his wife were active leaders in our youth group. Every now and then he’d pull the kids together and we’d spend a Saturday morning baking bread. I’m sure it was a great break for my parents: “Go to church,” they’d say, “Mel’s baking bread today.” I don’t think there was any particular schedule or plan; he’d just get the idea and call the parents and, soon enough, there’d be a gaggle of kids in our church’s industrial kitchen, kneading dough, setting loaves to rise, mixing batter, cooling the baked bread, putting the rest in bags. The next day, of course, the church building was filled with that unmistakable aroma of freshly baked bread, and we’d set out a table and sell the loaves. (Turns out, it was also an amazing fundraiser for our Sunday school and youth group!)