The right way to do communion
By: Susan Naslund
My “First Communion” was in Sunday school. About a dozen of us children sat at a kid-sized table as a plate of bread was passed from small hand to small hand. I took a piece of the bread and popped it in my mouth. To my dismay, the teacher exclaimed, “No, Susan. Don’t eat it yet! That’s wrong.” and I immediately spit the half-chewed bread into my hand. I sat there red-faced with a sticky wad of gluten gripped in my fist while the teacher explained the proper procedure to taking Communion.
Since that first awkward Eucharist feast, I have knelt at many a Communion rail, passed tiny cups in the pews, and made my way down aisles to dip hunks of bread into waiting cups. I have also been excluded from taking the Eucharist in some churches because I was not considered worthy to partake in the sacrament. I have spent most of my life wondering if I am doing Communion “right.”
In the Alabama-West Florida conference of the UMC, there is a camp for adults with special needs. During Communion at one such camp, a participant remarked, "I've never been to Communion before, but I love God and I'm hungry.” The Communion steward broke off a piece of bread, and the man dipped it in the juice and ate it, smiling the whole time. Then, instead of going back to his seat, the man continued around the back of the church and got in line again. When he got back to the steward, he leaned over and said, "That was so good I decided to come back for more!"
St. Augustine said it in a different way: “Christ is the bread, awaiting hunger.”
What if I always came hungry to the Eucharist? What if I approached the table empty of my own worries about whether I am good enough, or whether I am doing this thing/this religion/this life “right?” All I can do is make sure there is room for God inside of me, and come back for more again and again. When I am so filled with compassion, mercy and justice that I have more than enough to share, then surely I will be doing Communion right.