Parade of Questions
The Army held a parade the day my husband and another officer retired from military service. The Chaplain, a graduate of the Military Academy, a Viet Nam War veteran, an ordained Episcopal Priest, a dear friend, delivered the Invocation. Then he turned to me and said: “Ann, this is Eucharist!”
That was over thirty years ago. I puzzled over that comment at the time and I have continued to ever since. Memories of that crisp fall day: soldiers in formation; flags flying; the band; the cadence of march music; civilian friends and family in the stands; work associates at Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center; our older son wearing his Air Force Academy Cadet Uniform; me in my white skirt, bright red blouse and royal blue blazer cradling a bouquet of flowers; a strong sense of connection to something bigger and greater than I.
I wondered over his statement. Eucharist? The question has lingered.
When I was introduced to Celtic Spirituality: God in you and God in me and God in Creation surrounding us, I had a question for the priest in our little Episcopal Church in the mountains. “If God is in everything, even the rocks that tumble down on Berthoud Pass: How do I talk to that God?” His response was not an answer. It was a challenge. He pulled his chair up in front of me, looked me in the eyes and said: “Ann, I want you to write a Eucharistic Prayer.” I couldn’t do that! Of course, I couldn’t do that!
In days following it occurred to me that, with some good help, something could be written. Three women I know, who did not know each other, but whose ideas I value and trust, agreed to work with me. We met weekly for five months. First, we met to get to know each other. Then we emptied our files of copies of spiritual sayings we treasure. Thoughts from the mystics, Native Americans, poets, church bulletins and prayers books and hymnals. We argued about what we believe was said in the Upper Room, about bread and wine and body and blood (especially the blood part). And we produced a Eucharistic Prayer which we celebrated together with our husbands and listened to their discomfort about what we had birthed.
Then came Covid-19. No church. No place. No Eucharist. The Church was faced with a dilemma that cannot be solved easily. How are we going to have Church? For those of us who have been watching church attendance decline over the years, who have been disappointed by the church as we age, who are concerned about the younger generation saying that church is irrelevant, it seems like the time to face a serious question.
The immediate response was how do we even have Eucharist? Drive by the church between these times and pick up a wafer. Window down and mask up. Without prayer books and hymnals? Without the sacred space? Without Eucharistic liturgy? Can we have church? Maybe we can Zoom it? Does it need a special place? Do we need an ordained person? Liturgy? Bring your own bread (or crackers) and wine (or coke)?
A small group of us decided to do Zoom Eucharist. We joined with people from Texas and Oregon and Indiana. We looked forward to it weekly, but it never really clicked. We had all the physical requirements: bread, wine, liturgy, music, and an ordained member. We were faithful. We lacked energy. I do not think Eucharist happened. At least not for me. Lingering over all for me was that old question: What is Eucharist?
It has been more than five years since we four women met. I have come to think of that time as Eucharist. One husband has died, one husband had a stroke, one husband is now on dialysis. We have faced cancer; heart issues; lots of loss. We have gone our own ways; going to church and not going to church. As soon as it is safe for us, we are going to meet for the first time just to be together. We will sit outside, weather permitting. We will wear masks and we will sit socially distanced. I can hardly wait! And in my heart, bread or not, wine or not, I believe it will be Eucharist!
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