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Body as Community April 18, 2009

Posted by amberpeace in εκκλησία, Living, relationships.
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At 5’11” and 102lbs, she looks monstrous. Her hair is stringy, her eyes are hollow, and her nails are broken and yellow. She has arms covered in little bruises and burns, and her knees and enveloped in scars. She has fallen so often one wonders if she ever thought of staying down and indeed she has. Stumbling, she is shoved one more time and finds herself face down in pine mulch on a Smokey Mountain trail.
So this is where she ends, face down in mulch. Let’s not think about the components of mulch. But strong hands grab her and she is staring into the faces of loving Christs wearing tee-shirts and Chacos. The girl is led by the hand to the Table. There, the Christs wash her feet and hands. They brush her hair and bandage her wounds, and anoint her head and face with oil.
They sit to the left and to the right, all around the table. A bowl of soup is placed before her. In the center, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine command the scene. A chunk of the bread is handed to her.
“This is for you.”
A glass of wine is poured and placed before her.
“This is for you.”
She eats; she drinks; she is nourished.
A Christ asks her a question.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Soul.”
The Christs nod, as if they expected that to be her answer.
She stays the night, and the next night. Soul feels no need to leave her sanctuary. Soul works hard, plays hard, and prays hard with these Christs. They constantly wash her feet and cover her head with oil. Soul, in turn, learns how to do these things to the others. She is there in eager anticipation when a new one arrives, there to care for them as she was cared for on that first night. Health returns to her frame. She suspects that the simple meals of soup, bread, and wine nourish her more than calories might suggest. Her nails grow, her eyes are no longer hollow. Soul has found body.

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The Body of Christ, Eucharist April 9, 2009

Posted by amberpeace in εκκλησία, living as a seminary student.
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Mutt. Mix. Melting. Those are the words that describe my spiritual and ecclesiological background. The Baptist piety of my soul yearned for the mystical connection of the Catholic Eucharist. Milligan College, in it’s well-intentioned attempt to show me the path of good congregationalism and “being like the early Church,” convinced me of the need for liturgy and high church. Something beautiful and redeeming happened when I chose to kneel in my pew. When I graduated from Milligan College, I left assuming I would never return to this community. I finally joined an Episcopal church and was confirmed into the Anglican Communion. I was going to live life as an Episcopalian. I was going to marry an Episcopalian. I would have small Episcopalians running around in topsiders and seersucker. Maybe they would play lacrosse.

God’s cosmic plan is never my plan. Less than a year and a half later, I returned to the Milligan and Emmanuel community. Now, a problem has arisen. I have labeled myself as Anglican. I hold Anglican beliefs, but I am not the 39 Articles personified. I am not attending the Episcopal Church in Johnson City. I’m not even fellowshipping at any time with the church. Instead, I am back at the church that I know and love, Grandview.

Is this wrong? I have spent many, many conversation on this topic. I surprise attack people. We might be discussing composting and suddenly I ask, “Is it okay for me to have communion presided over by someone who isn’t a priest?” For some reason, I can accept that Eucharist presided over by an Orthodox, or Roman Catholic, or Anglican priest is legitimate. Have the smells and bells indoctrinated me, or have they taught me a truth?

In my heart, in my gut, I cannot believe that it is a truth. Baptist piety is a fire that refines every thought that enters me. I am too troubled by the idea of denying the priesthood of all believers. I know many can tell me how that is different than the ordained minister I see at the alter. I cannot accept that. There is something wrong with the idea that I, as a layperson, cannot walk up the bread and wine and then ask the Holy Ghost to change the elements into the Body and Blood of Christ. This makes my prayers less effective. That belief means I am less than a person ordained. “No,” I am told, “it makes you different.” No, it makes me less.

But still, I struggle. In a few months, I will have a wedding. There will be communion, and I am terrified. What if I am not supposed to have communion? What if my beliefs about Eucharist, the Church, and the Body of Christ are wrong? The problem with Baptist piety, that runs so deep, is that your fear of punishment never quite goes away. I am a sinner, dangling like a spider on a thread, hanging over the fire.

In the end, my heart says that I will champion the layperson. I have been called clueless. I have been called ignorant. I’m pretty sure I took a grade cut because of my position. The fact is astounding that the Body of Christ can be so divided over the Body of Christ.

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