I've always felt drawn to a ministry with those who are dying and their loved ones, so I move on with a sense of rightness, a feeling that it's a ministry for which I have some gifts, and that I'll find it extremely meaningful.
Still, leaving pastoral ministry is going to cost me. I'll miss the excitement of Sunday mornings:
- 800 people at two services
- being at or near the center of a worship service that 20,000 people around the world would watch online, big screens in the sanctuary, getting the microphones just right
- orchestra and choir -- music that moved the heavens
- beauty of the sanctuary, with its color and light and movement
Most of all, though, it's the way CoH serves communion. When David and I first visited there on the Sunday after I was hired, we sat on the second row, so we received communion and a blessing from one of the ministers, then returned to our pew. And then we watched. We witnessed. It went on and on and on and on, a SEA of humanity -- all kinds of people, black and white and brown, people dressed beautifully and people dressed in old dirty clothes, mostly gay but some straight, a couple of folks in wheelchairs . . . all coming forward to receive the bread of life and the cup of grace. And the ministers placed the wafer, dipped in juice, on their tongues and gave them all a blessing. Oh, oh, oh, it was beautiful to behold.
Little did I know that serving communion would be even better than receiving it! I got to dip the wafer in the juice and place it on each person's tongue. They came individually, in couples, in whole families and friends together. Each one coming forward down those long aisles, as the beautiful music played, to receive the LOVE of Christ. The unconditional love. The love that knows NO BOUNDARIES, includes absolutely EVERYONE -- no exceptions. No kidding. I always smiled as they came forward, for I was truly so happy to see them. I always looked them in the eye, and gave them the blessing that came to me from the theme of the service, and I prayed that for each person the bread of life and the cup of grace would truly nourish their very souls.
And then, when the last person had received, I was often the one designated to "clean the dishes," as Dawson would put it. With everyone seated, I went to the communion table, lifted up the loaf, which an LMOW (lay minister of worship) had placed there, eat it. Then lift up the cup, and drink the juice. The LMOW would then pour a little water in the cup, which I'd swish around, and drink it. Then I'd stand back and sing with the congregation. Each communion song was well known, and each had a place in which the whole congregation knew to rise up AS ONE, everyone holding hands across the pews, and we'd SING, SING, SING -- SING OF THE ALL INCLUSIVE, RADICAL LOVE OF GOD.
And I'd stand there, with my arms outstretched, singing, and looking at the LMOW's in their white robes who always sat on the first pew.