At our church, the person who brings the elements for Communion typically, but not always, helps serve at the table. When that person chooses not to, I ask another person to serve with me. Since part of the job of the minister is to nurture "call," I often ask one of the youth (or adults) who I think has the gifts for pastoral ministry.
This morning, I made an assumption that the person who brought Communion would not want to serve and so I asked one of our youth, G. She agreed, and we practiced what she would say while holding the chalice. Just before worship started, the woman who brought Communion came up to me to ask me what she was supposed to say. "Ooops!" This woman, Mrs. N, is a dear soul and in the early-to-middle stages of Alzheimers, so it actually would have been more confusing to explain the situation to her and ask if it was okay to let G serve.
I turned to G and said, "G, I'm terribly sorry. I made an assumption that turns out was wrong. Mrs. N would like to serve Communion after all, and since we usually let the person who brought Communion help, I really need to honor that. I hope you aren't too disappointed." She said, "Nope, that's fine" so cheerfully that I just wanted to hug her. Grace abounding from my mistake. I assured her that the next time I needed a Communion server, it would be her.
She smiled and said. "That's fine. I was actually wondering how I was going to get to take Communion since I was serving." And this is where it gets really good!
I asked, "Did you think you weren't going to get Communion because you were serving it?"
"Yes." (Everyone in our church gets to take Communion, no matter their age, membership or baptismal "status.")
"So, you were willing to sacrifice taking Communion in order to help serve the rest of the church?"
She did not understand why I started to cry at that moment.
Generous-hearted children like this are what keeps the faith Christ has entrusted to us alive and growing, even in the midst of declining membership and giving. Generous-hearted children like this know what it means to serve, to minister, to care, and they do it without weighing costs and benefits. Perhaps she does not love Communion the way I do, but considering the way our children race forward to receive the bread and juice, I think it more likely that she was willing to sacrifice participating in the feast of God's presence in order to facilitate that presence for others.
Fortunately, she also learned that those are not mutually exclusive. So the next time I need someone to serve with, I will ask G. And when we have finished serving the congregation, we will turn and serve each other the feast of God's presence. And today, I leave church overflowing with the fullness of that Presence, thanks to G.