I try to keep worship to an hour, even when we have Communion, so I have a side-eye on the clock and move certain things along, but my intention is always to have the time when the congregation comes forward feel time-less. I look each person in the eye as I give the bread, and then they pass to the right or left to dip it in one of the cups being held by a Deacon. But for some reason, today they seemed to barrel toward me, in twos, barely giving me a chance to connect — which is not for me, but feels like an important pastoral act.
It felt like withdrawing.
In three more weeks, we’ll engage in a liturgy of farewell, releasing and forgiving one another. I worked on the order of service this afternoon, and it felt heavy. Saying goodbye well matters.
But it goes by so fast.
It’s the same with mothering. LP and I have pushed up the date of separation as we prepare for my move to Pennsylvania and hers around a few corners to her dad’s house, but it was coming soon anyway, in a matter of months.
As the congregation came up the aisle, so quickly, in such a hurry, I told myself I could not think about how it is the last time.
And then came LP, in the midst of the other choir members, her long hair shining. She looks down at me now, even in flats, wise in some ways beyond her years, and for a fraction of a moment I remembered her sweet little girl face as a seven-year-old, coming up to take Communion from me for the first time, and I felt the pricking of a tear…
and I told myself to stop it. Stop.It.
There will be other times, other times I can say to her, “The Body of Christ, broken for you.” I’ll land somewhere, eventually, and she’ll visit, and there will be Communion, and we will be in it together again.
But it goes by so fast, the days left in this house tumbling toward me like the hurrying communicants, the months until college like a wave racing to break on the shore. We’re both eager for the future — I think I can say that — and anxious about logistics and trying to get a lot of work done in a short time (packing/sorting/disposing for me; college applications for her).
There are many things I will miss, but here’s what surprises me. I grieve a little that the regular intimacy of congregational life will not likely be ours again.
Does that sound like an odd thing to say? We’ve been making the journey to church together every Sunday, just about, for her whole life. When I became a pastor ten years ago, she became a part of the ministry team. I value her reflections on human interactions in the congregation, and her critiques of my sermons and messages for the children. I value her company, the ways in which she accompanies me.
This day was coming, anyway. But I never expected my empty nest to be the Communion table.