Ministry, Mystic Sweet Communion

Fall Afresh on Me

It was Children’s Sunday yesterday, and I had some hard work to top last year’s service, which included a boat (a real boat) in the chancel. Because I was on vacation last week, all the work had to be done ahead of time, and there was some doubt in my mind about whether anyone would remember what they had agreed to do or bring. Perhaps the most important thing (and the one that worried me the most) was a set of red streamers attached to some sort of stick that one of the moms had agreed to make. As it turned out, they were fantastic!! She bought red satin ribbon (better than streamers) and attached the ribbon to dowels trimmed to about 12 inches. A yard of red ribbon on a dowel is pretty fabulous to wave in the air. As I told the Pentecost story, the youngest children stood in the chancel, representing Peter and the other disciples. When the Spirit came, they began to wave their ribbons in the air. What we couldn’t have known and planned was that the hard-waved ribbons snapped, eliciting a visceral response from the listeners and watchers: a surprise and wonder that put us in mind of the disciples and what must have been their response to the wind and the flames. Next, the older children, standing at the front of the sanctuary, joined in as we read about the gathered crowd and their puzzlement at understanding the words of the Galileans. As I began Peter’s speech, the older children spread out among the congregation, still waving their ribbons. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

When we had the Prayers of the People, I invited the congregation to name people they wanted to pray for, and I was pleased that the children offered up names, too. Seven year old Oliver raised his hand and I called his name. "Who would you like us to pray for?" "My brother." His brothers are almost five, triplets born the summer I was doing CPE. Their mom is Catholic, but I had visited with her on the antepartum floor while she was on bedrest. It was a surprise to both of us when she brought two of them to visit the church’s nursery school a few years later. Robert didn’t come with them; he was in a special program for children with cerebral palsy. His intelligence is normal, but he walks on little crutches and faces surgeries throughout his growing life. We’ve been praying for him a long time. When he was allowed this year to go to a regular school, with an aide paid for by the state, his mother wanted him to come and be with his brothers, although we were not on the approved list and they would have to pay tuition. We suggested the three boys come for the price of two. Now their dad is bringing them to church each week. And yesterday we prayed for Robert as his brother asked.

Last year I included Communion in our Children’s Sunday worship, and after experiencing it yesterday, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. The Little Princess and a boy about her age were my Communion helpers. As the congregation came forward, she offered the bread, and he the cup, with a sense of gravity that was not so much solemn as, well, sacramental. For me, watching my little girl (now almost as tall as I am), standing there looking so beautiful and speaking gently and welcomingly to each person, "The Bread of Life," saying their names as she has heard me do, it was all I could do not to weep.

I’ve never been part of a church that gave great emphasis to the Holy Spirit. My Baptist childhood was all about Jesus, and my UCC adulthood has been nigh onto unitarian. I had to discover the Holy Spirit for myself. That Spirit moved among us yesterday, in the wind and the fire and the snap of ribbons, in the breaking of the bread and the taste of grape juice, in the happy faces and in the parents’ tears, and in the prayer of a loving brother.