This past weekend, I had the pleasure of a mini-road trip and vacation. I love road trips – now that I have a car that can actually handle highway driving, I love being able to hop behind the wheel, load up on chips, pop, and NPR podcasts, and see the road stretch out before me, full of possibilities. This weekend meant Grand Rapids in Michigan for the third time in my life. I went up to Grand Rapids to hear Rachel Held Evans speak about Ruth at Mars Hill (no, not THAT Mars Hill), as part of their Lenten series. I’d never been to a church so large, and was glad that I was able to sit with fellow feminist Christian blogger, Sarah Moon, and her boyfriend Abe (as well as several other wonderful people whom I got to know over the course of the day). After the service was over, a whole lot of us went to Bartertown – a “socialist” diner in downtown Grand Rapids.
We sat down next to a huge mural that recalled Marxist propaganda of the fifties and sixties, and ordered our vegan brunch (I got the “bowl of hash,” which was an adventurous and spicy choice). And we got to talking. Our group was split into two tables, and my table had six people (including myself). As the conversation got moving, I felt as though a weight was lifting from my shoulders. Here, finally, was a group of men and women who have had similar experiences, who think like me, who are looking at the box of conservative Christianity (thanks, Pam, for the analogy!) from the outside and noticing all the holes and structural deficiencies.
Here were people who are seeking after God’s heart, finding their own ways of looking at the world, and genuinely wanting to make it a better place for men and women. And we were all bellied up to the same table, chowing down on much needed victuals, and simply enjoying each other’s company.
The talk ranged all over the place, from expectations that the church places upon women to discussing Rachel’s sermon to sharing our varied experiences from within the church and talking about college contracts and behavior codes. It was what you would expect a table full of Christian feminists to discuss.
There is no better way to describe what happened at the table than communion. Sure, there wasn’t a priest blessing the food and instilling it with a form of holiness (or, if you’re Catholic, the literal grace and body of Jesus). Sure, we didn’t read Corinthians and spend moments in quiet prayer contemplating the broken body and blood of the Christ, for the Baptists out there.
But communion never really was a quiet moment in a Baptist church on a Sunday morning, though it can encompass that. Communion, in the time of the early church that Paul was writing to, was an entire meal – a raucous gathering in a friend’s house, a full meal between people who shared more than just happening to be in the same place on a Sunday morning.
I haven’t had a communion like this since I was in Waco, but I had communion yesterday. And that – the real meat of things, discussions between people who share a common faith and aren’t afraid to speak up, to talk over each other, to discuss, to challenge, to talk about experiences and say “you too!?” – that is what I firmly believe we are called to. That is bringing the church outside the walls. That is the life and blood of Christ – a community that embraces each other and builds true and meaningful connections in just an afternoon.
THAT is church. I thought I’d already gone to church on Sunday, but little did I know, when the benediction was said and we were sent on our way, that church was just beginning.