by Susan P. Harris
Because I have been social distancing since the middle of March, I’ve not attended an in-person worship service with my congregation.
Yes, I worship online with the synod staff and other congregations every Sunday morning, but I miss the sense of community, of being together with fellow believers.
I listen to more than one service every Sunday morning, which means I can listen to pastors proclaim the word of God from many different churches here in North Carolina and elsewhere. I can watch evangelists and preachers on television. I’ve even watched a video worship service from a military base in Germany after my son sent me an invitation. But it’s not the same.
Missing the personal connection
I miss the personal connection that a congregation offers. I miss the communion, not only Holy Communion, but the communion of saints.
In a moment of desperation and longing and knowing that the chaplain from a local military base was offering a Holy Communion service, I logged in, albeit a few hours later.
He suggested we gather our elements. So, I poured wine in a goblet and placed bread on a plate, hoping that would fulfill my yearning for the body and blood of Christ.
When the chaplain spoke the Words of Institution, I chewed the bread, and I drank the wine. But it was not the body of Christ or the blood of Christ.
Why did that bread and wine not become the body and blood? Was it because of my lack of faith? Was it because I was not in church, but sitting in front of a computer at my dining room table? Was it because the chaplain was not looking me in the eye and handing me the elements?
I don’t know, but it was not the same. Maybe you would have felt the Holy Spirit. But I did not.
With God’s help
Sometime later, a friend from a neighboring congregation sent me an invitation to join her congregation for a Zoom communion service. At the appointed time, I joined the service with my bread and my wine in front of me.
The pastor asked us to hold the bread and the wine up, and he pronounced a blessing upon it, consecrating it, if you will. This time when I ate the bread and drank from the cup, I felt the presence of Jesus in my heart. I can’t explain the different feeling.
I realize controversy and various opinions exist about virtual communion. Even when our congregations re-gather for worship,
Holy Communion may not be a part of that worship because of the continued threat of COVID-19. We don’t know when we’ll be able to take communion again.
I continue to yearn for the day when we can return to the sanctuary and worship together as a community of saints.
Yearn for the day
I continue to yearn for the day when we can return to the sanctuary and worship together as a community of saints. I can’t wait for the day that my pastor looks me in the eye and says, “This is the body of Christ given for you,” and “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.”
Until that time, I will be fed by the word of God that is proclaimed by the bishop or other staff members of the North Carolina Synod. I will hear the message of one or more pastors from neighboring congregations as they share their message of God’s love.
And I will wait for the gathering around the table where we all share the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I will wait until we can assemble safely in our congregations.
I will, with God’s help, wait for community and communion.
Susan P. Harris is past president of the North Carolina Synodical Women’s Organization and a life-long member of Salem Lutheran Church, Lincolnton, N.C. Married with two grown children and five grandchildren, she serves on the North Carolina Synod Council.
To help you get through these difficult times, consider journaling. Download Women of the ELCA’s free resource, Journaling: Create your own Sacred Writings to learn how to begin.