Since attending seminary, I’ve spent more time than usual on introspection, on examining my inner self. I’ve sat through many lectures where we were asked to ponder why we believe what we believe, respond in the ways that we do and relate to the world as we do. I’ve also been asked to contemplate questions like, what does home mean for me? Is it a place, a people, a person, an experience? Why do I associate home with that person/place/experience? As I seek to make Boston my home–my dwelling–how does my life thus far inform my home-making process? What people/places/experiences do I seek in order to truly dwell here–and why?
These are questions which have probably caused many of us tension when we moved cities or experienced some sort of change. And yet, we know that change is natural, so by identifying within ourselves the things that keep us grounded and why they do so, we’re able to adapt and find home wherever we are.
I was recently asked to reflect on the spiritual disciplines that impacted my childhood. To my surprise, communion was front and center. Communion? Important to an eight-year-old? I know, it’s weird. My younger brother and I loved to play Church. We would get bread from the kitchen along with a grape juice box, and we’d set up plastic blue chairs in the weeds behind the garage. (I know this sounds unorthodox, but I don’t remember Jesus telling his disciples they had to be ordained first… that’s a debate for another blog!) We tied sticks together for a cross, and then we sang and had communion. Once we were on a road trip, and I remember that we put a blanket over the seat to close in our backseat chapel where we reverently ate bread and drank grape juice. It could only be done in the chapels we made and it had to be done with the sincerest reverence. No gobbling the bread–just little pieces broken off.
Today, Christians around the world celebrated World Communion Sunday, a tradition that was recognized by the National Council of Churches in 1940. As countries around the world were taking sides and entering into World War II, the National Council of Churches was removing denominational barriers. When the world seemed most divided, the Church sought to embrace the ecumenical Christian family–to bring people together.
In The United Methodist Church, there is a mandatory special offering for higher education and specialized scholarships for minority groups which happens on World Communion Sunday in UM churches around the world (1972 Book of Discipline, paragraph 163.b). Together, we are providing access to higher education to folks who have previously been denied the opportunity. Together, we celebrate World Communion Sunday and find ourselves in a world not all that different from 1940. Global politics are increasingly divisive as the U.S. and China war with tariffs, families are separated and children held captive; the climate crisis is causing millions of people worldwide to challenge their government’s lack of action, and the U.K. risks a new election over Brexit and their third government in three years.
The United Methodist Church is on the precipice of schism as far right voices try to disassemble the Church altogether and leave nothing behind. The self-titled “liberationists” seek to end the harm done to marginalized communities, as I hope to as well, but at what cost? Does their vision of complete separation from those who are willing to learn but need guidance truly transform the world or transform individual communities? Does ending the Church end the harm to LGBTQ+ persons, women, people of color and so many historically marginalized communities?
There are no easy answers. If I’ve learned anything from seminary so far it’s that theologians really like to ask questions, but they don’t like to answer them. Engaging in the questioning, however, is essential; it makes each of us see the world and our divisions not in narrow terms of right and wrong.
It’s amidst this chaos and questioning that we celebrate World Communion Sunday. Let me leave you with this:
What I love about The United Methodist Church is that we are a global Church. People around the world are engaging in well digging, education offering, life-changing opportunities that we could not do alone. AND as a global Church, we enable the conversation around LGBTQ+ inclusion to happen globally. Folks in Kenya can go to Moheto First UMC and attend a United Methodist Church which is inclusive of LGBTQ+ people and connected to over 1,100 other UM communities around the world with Reconciling Ministries Network.
In the upcoming summer, I will be visiting German United Methodists, and I’m currently working with United Methodists in Ethiopia and the Philippines to support their efforts of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Because of our global connection, we are able to transform the world together and offer safe spaces for queer folks–not just in the U.S., but around the world.
May we pray, on this World Communion Sunday of 2019, for the ecumenical family of Christ-followers around the world–that we would seek justice together, working cooperatively to bring peace across international and denominational boundaries. May we recommit to a unity which is not grounded in an ignorance of our wrongdoing, but one which confesses our failures to LGBTQ+ people and people of color; one which challenges us to be transformed ourselves and to continue the work of transformation in each community around the world. Amen.