As many of you already know, I am an atheist. I also go to church. While I may not believe in a deity (and what I believe is not strictly that, but that is for another day), I DO believe in the teachings of Jesus, for the most part (I disagree with his stance on divorce). My church understands how I feel, but they welcome me with open arms and do not try to change me: we get along great. I think we both recognize that we are essentially on the same side. (Mark 9:40)
Communion trips me up a bit, though. I realize there are two ways to look at it. One is that you are taking in the body and blood of Jesus and the other is that you are communing with Jesus through the breaking of bread. Both don't fit for me, but I definitely like the second one better. Maybe because for me, it is about the message, not the man.
I suppose I could look at it as breaking bread with my fellow man, or as a symbol of Jesus' message, but it just doesn't fit for me. I would just be trying to make this act fit into a box it doesn't really fit in, at least for me. It would feel forced, at least at this point in my journey.
Wikipedia describes the origin of the word communion:
"The term communion is derived from Latin communio (sharing in common). The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as 'fellowship'."
If I look at communion this way, as a sharing in common, or as a fellowship, I can understand it a bit better. A group of people symbolically showing their shared fellowship. And one of the things I really like about our church, is that this shared fellowship is open to anyone: open doors, open hearts, open minds. It is an open fellowship.
But, taking communion still doesn't feel like me. I feel as though I would be saying something that I am not saying. I feel as though it would false, and that is not fair to me or to the other people for whom it does mean something. I respect their beliefs as much as I respect my own.
My beliefs did not come to me easily. I was going to a church I absolutely loved, as they poured their hearts and resources into their community, no strings attached. They have made it a mission to help those who need help. They don't spend a lot of money on how things look; they spend it on how things ARE.
They have invited the homeless to spend the night, taking part of a program with other churches in the area to keep the homeless from freezing to death at night in the winter. They have a weekly meal, open to anyone who needs/wants food. and they don't require anything of them (no sermon, no "saving"). They give clothes to the women's prison for the women just getting out, who might need some clothes to begin their new life.
They believe in clean water and air. They believe that everyone has worth. They believe that our LGBT brother and sisters are valuable members of our society and are welcomed with open arms. They believe that we have a responsibility to the world: love it, and its inhabitants, with all our minds, hearts, and souls. Who can argue with all that?
(Strangely, a lot of people can, but that is for another day, as well.)
So, to come to realize that I did not believe in God, at least in the traditional sense, was a hard thing to come to. I knew this church was where I belonged, where I WANTED to belong. It took a long time for me to say it out loud to anyone, but they surprised me with their acceptance and love. It's not that I thought they would turn me out, but I did not dare to believe that they would just...accept and love. (That might have more to do my my own insecurities and issues, but it is how I felt at the time.)
I have been invited to take communion, no matter my beliefs. My beautiful pastor has made it clear that I am always welcome, without having to change anything about myself. The invitation makes me feel both wonderful and a little guilty. Wonderful, because it only reaffirms that THIS is the place I want to be, but guilty, because I know that, for me, I can't. At least not today.
Today is World Communion Sunday. So, I decided that, as part of my shared fellowship, I would make the bread. As I write this, I have two loaves of challah bread rising in the oven. Right now, this is how I will take my communion: through a sharing of my loaves.
I hope they can taste the love in them.