September 29, 2011

A New Normal 2: Communion

For me, church was always done a certain way: Until I began going to a new church.

For the first 40+ years of my life, taking communion meant walking to the front of the church – when prompted by the usher – and kneeling at the altar rail. This was my normal. It was a private act between God and me.

Imagine my surprise – and discomfort – when I began worshiping at St. John’s Chapel on the Episcopal Divinity School campus and discovered that their ‘normal’ was inviting the congregation to gather around the altar for communion.

Standing in a circle – face to face with the other communicants – and reciting the familiar liturgy as the celebrant and Eucharistic ministers prepared the feast felt wrong. Not in my head as much as in my body. Communion had always been a private act and now I was face-to-face with my church community.

Reflecting on the ‘why’ of my discomfort, I recognized that the act of taking communion when kneeling at the altar rail, repeated week after week throughout my life, was deeply imprinted in my consciousness. My body had a physical memory of what communion should be.

Paying attention to my physical response to change helps me manage change. Acknowledging and naming my physical/subconscious – and often negative – reaction to change opens me up to exploring the benefits of the change.

I came to love the act of celebrating communion as part of a circle of worshippers. Standing face-to-face with the rest of the congregation while partaking of the body and blood of Christ resonates with me in a different way than my private moment with God. I feel part of something bigger, and this feeling is empowering. For me, there’s a new – and better - normal

What does change feel like to you? How have you used your understanding of how change feels to help manage change in your congregation? What’s worked for you when introducing change into your congregation?