By Ann Rosewall and Ruth Hamilton
The discernment weekend event I attended in Stony Point, NY, almost a year ago, included a heads-up: you will be asked to preach. I appreciated the notice, especially since my first invitation, to preach for the coming Sunday’s service, came on the Thursday I arrived. The text for the day was from Matthew 5: You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world. This is the text that we recite every time we get together for confirmation class at First Congregational Church of Evanston, so I was channeling the youth with whom I have been journeying. The message itself was not as important as the service itself, and the way in which the children were included.
At first, the set-up of the room seemed awkward – half of the plastic patio chairs faced the pulpit and projection screen, and the other half were facing those chairs at a 90-degree angle. The adults faced the front; the children faced the adults. The youngsters all sat together, sang the hymns, recited prayers, and even gave testimony and read from the Bible. And, I soon discovered, they were well behaved since the adults had them in full view.
When it came time for communion, the entire invitation to the table was geared to the kids. Jesus welcomed the children. WE welcome the children. Come to God as a child. God wants you to come to the table. Two of the children came forward and were given stoles to wear to serve communion. The children came forward first – in a gaggle. They were literally clamoring to get to the table that Jesus had set for them. Each took a small cup of grape juice and a cracker. When they returned to their seats, we all sang a song of thanks. The service could have ended there, as far as I was concerned. My heart and spirit were well filled at that point.
Then the adults came forward to commune. We came forward two by two, holding hands with the person standing next to us. Again, there was an excitement about coming forward for the bread and cup. I found myself in the center aisle without a hand to hold. The couple in front of me turned around, and each took one of my hands, so the three of us could walk together to a holy meal intended to create community and peace.
The service ended with an invitation to pass the peace, and we did so with a kiss given to every member. We stacked our chairs and talked about the next time we would be able to meet and commune together: God’s people.