I smiled as the first person approached, and I tore off a piece of bread with my thumb and forefinger. "The body of Christ, given for you," I said, and I placed the piece of bread in the open palm. I don't remember exactly who came first, but that person was followed by many more in the quiet bustle of communion.
There were the nice people who come to Bible Study on Tuesdays. Most people look serious when they come through the communion line, but these two smiled back at me.
My husband was in the other line, but I still looked up and caught his eye as he came near. I could feel him close, and it was a warm feeling.
I smiled reassuringly at the little girl who seemed so shy that at first I wasn't sure if she wanted to receive the bread or not. But then she held out her little hand and looked up at me timidly. I gave her the bread, and her father put his hand gently on her shoulder as they moved on.
For a while I noticed that the pastor and I were in perfect rhythm. "The body of Christ given for you, the blood of Christ shed for you," we would say in unison. I could hear the other communion servers speaking these lines too. All of us spoke together, on top of each other, and yet each person heard only the one who was speaking directly to him or her. There was sense in the jumble of words coming out of four mouths at once.
The congregation finished the two communion hymns and then the choir began to sing. What a heavenly sound, I distractedly thought to myself as I smiled and spoke to the person standing in front of me. I glanced up at the choir loft, but it was empty. Then I looked down the line of people waiting to receive communion and saw the choir gathered out in the narthex, singing through the double doors at the back of the church. The ethereal sound of their voices washed over all of us, breathing a gentle warmth on our spirits.
A beautiful, tottering old lady whom I've seen often but never formally met approached me. She had the most beautiful pink corsage pinned to her jacket in honor of Mother's Day. I looked at her bright yet wrinkled old face and thought of all of the children and grandchildren whose lives she must have touched. I imagined all the boundless love caught up in that little pink corsage. I didn't know her, but as I imagined the family who had picked out that corsage for her, I loved and admired her too.
Here came the members of the choir, people I've sung with and laughed with. I hoped they all knew how beautiful their singing had just been. I made a mental note to tell them as often as possible how much I enjoy listening to them.
All the faces passed by, people I knew and people I didn't know, but in the simple action of sharing communion I was connected to them all. Finally came a pair of friends with their new baby. As I looked at his tiny little face, he was also my hope for the future, a gift from God with the power to benefit the entire community, the whole body of Christ. Every mother's love, every child's smile, every person's hope was part of the community to which I belonged, and I could feel that more strongly than ever as I stood at the front of the church, watching them all come by.
Then it was over. I carried the pastor's chalice and my empty plate back into the sacristy. Soon we would all disperse into the wide world (or at least into the little town of Northfield), and it would be a while before we came back together again. Still, we would be connected because of this meal we had just shared and the faith that binds us to God and to one another.