Yes it is official! I am south of the border in New York State for the summer, doing an interfaith program at a retreat center. I am lucky in the fact that there are a lot of churches near-by. (I often hear the church that chimes the hour, when I am working outside.) One of the coolest parts about all this would have to be, the fact that I now have access to certain denominations that would normally be much more difficult to find back home.
Before I even left for the service, I was informed that that church "might not have any service at all". Apparently the church was going to, was going thru a period of "upheaval". I decided Not to ask or get into details. I suspected another case of "dieing church" syndrome. There were only 12 people at this service, mostly seniors.
This place literally looks like a little stone castle from the outside. Which is cool. When you first enter you immediate you see the ropes the connect to the church bells. Personally I find it cool that they still have it set up that way, most churches have a system that rings their bells automatically.
As soon as I sat down I was greeted by some of the church members and leader ship. Including one middle aged fellow that came over to shake my hand. As we started talking , and I told him about my project. He said "we are small, but we are different."
I definitely got some interesting facts out of today.
"The book of John was written in the year 100 AD".
I checked into my study bible on this, apparently everyone has their own idea when The gospel of John was written. My study Bible says 80-95AD however other scholars argue that it could be as early as 50-70AD.
"Up to the year 300 Christians and Jews worshiped together."
This is a piece of information that I have also had confirmed a few times. Including once since I have been here on my interfaith program. I have learned a lot about Jewish belief, worship and ritual since coming here. And in all honesty I can see how that could work, as odd as it might be.
We got a speech on some of the history behind the practice of holly communion.
Fun fact! The first food and drink that was ever consumed on the moons service, was an astronaut saying a prayer and taking communion, that was prepared for his trip.
"Everyone is on an equal playing field, everyone takes communion together. Everyone rich or poor are welcome in Christ."
Taking communion it's self at this church was very interesting. The female minister brought out a very large loaf of braided bread, broke it. Then, instead of hand delivering the wine and bread to each individual, She encouraged each one of us, to come up, individually, and drink the wine, and take a piece of bread. She stepped aside and left the table leaving the front of the church empty and open for anyone who wished to come up. There was a great hesitation. No one wanted to move too quickly, and the room sat silent for some time. Eventually the people in the room started moving slowly, one by one to the front of the church. They approached the table, carefully tore a modest sized piece of bread and then dunking it in the wine before consuming it, and quickly returning to their seats.
I think this experience was very powerful and more "real" in a lot of ways then what I have experienced prior. I have taken communion many times before, but this was different. I have only seen a pastor actually rip a large loaf of bread in half once before, and this was definitely the first time we had ever been asked to go and tare a piece of bread off for ourselves.
And it all honesty. It was hard. Really hard.
I think I know why some people went so slow, (including myself). Because when you went up to the front of the room, you were not just a number in a line up, that faces the priest/pastor for a quick moment to be hand fed. No, you had to go up alone to the table, look upon the rest of the room that is baring witness to your action, and then if you are willing and able, accept the body and blood of Christ. I witnesses many people literately freeze in mid action, while reaching for the bread. It was like they had never put so much thought into process even though they had done so many times before.
That was pressure. I can only imagine the weight that the disciples felt. Living under Roman oppression, being abused, living in danger, wanted men, hated by the government, on the run, and then having their leader announce that he was going to murdered,by one of their own, and that they needed to carry on without him.
Now take the bread and wine.
Could you do it?
Today was one of those days where I cried a lot...again. I had a stranger come up and hug and kiss me. Just another day on the job I guess.
I was able to talk to one of the fellows that first introduced himself to me, and we talked for some time. I told him about the recent turn of power in Alberta, and the end of the 44 year rule of the PC government. He told me that he can relate, and believes him, and many other young people felt just as hopeful when Kennedy got elected in US. Back In the day.
As we were leaving he mentioned that another group was coming in after them. I asked if it was a different church congregation? He said no. It was actually a group of Zoroastrians.
Ok, explanation time. The Three Wise Men were believed to be Zoroastrians, because of their commitment to reading the stars and seeing the singe that God sent them. From what I can understand this faith has strongly affected the development of the Abrahamic faiths and pre-dates Christianity and Islam. I have a link to a F&Q page for those that want to know more.
Until next time.
Peace. Shabbat. Shalom.