It was a warm August morning at the retreat center. I was one of thirty women gathered for a weekend of leadership training and fellowship. We spent hours laughing, learning, and growing in our love for one another and Christ. On Sunday morning, I woke early and went for a two hour walk beside the river. I was to host communion later that morning, and while God had given me words to share, I knew the Spirit had more for me and my fellow sojourners. It was through the gentle, rustling sounds of the river that I began to hear Spirit whisper Her message.
After breakfast, the women gathered on the back deck of the retreat center around the Communion Table, which was beautifully set with Bread, Wine, and Word. I opened our time of worship with prayer and an invitation to listen to the sounds that surrounded us: birds were singing, crickets were cricketing, and the buzz of bees filled the air. Off in the distance, the river, low from the dry summer days, could be heard, singing her quiet song, encouraging us to settle into Presence.
The silence was gently broken as passages of Scripture were read. I then encouraged the women to close their eyes and listen as I painted a scene of communion for them with the following words:
“Friends old and new gather under a canopy of trees, surrounded by grapevines as far as the eye can see. It’s a warm evening, growing cooler as the sun sets. The table is long, covered in pink and orange striped linen, with candles and small bouquets down the center. Wine glasses, water glasses, and silverware sit at each place setting.
Early in the evening, conversation is easy and laughter-filled, but shifts to things of the heart as time, fine food, and wine pass. Tears and laughter are intertwined, woven together like a basket holding an abundance of Grace.
In that space we remember losses, gains, and gifts. We wonder about Christ’s prayer for Oneness with the Father, and His promise of freedom and abundant Life. We remember all this while sitting in the reality of brokenness: the brokenness of Christ, the brokenness of the world, indeed, even the brokenness of ourselves.
As we remember, we are transformed, sustained, and emboldened to move from that place refreshed, united in the common goal of making the Gospel of Grace known to the world through the tangible outpouring of the love of Christ. We leave that table knowing communion with God and others happened.
Reflecting on the Lord’s Supper, NT Wright notes:
“Sharing a meal, especially a festive one, binds together a family, a group of friends, a collection of colleagues. Such meals say more than we could ever put into words about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys we share together. The meal not only feeds our bodies; that seems in some ways the least significant part of it. It says something; and it does something, actually changing us so that after it, part of who we are is “the people who shared that meal together, with all that it meant.’”
Jesus invites us to partake of a bountiful, communal meal, yet we often choose to stand in our individual bubbles, sustained by crumbs as we grasp the passing plates for miniature crackers and grape juice in plastic shot glasses. There is no lingering, no allowing the elements to spread over the tongue, no tasting the sweetness of the grains and the bitterness of the grapes. But today is different.
At the Spirit’s prompting, step up to the Table to join us for this meal. After everyone has received their portion and consumed it, please sit in communal silence, allowing the goodness of the Lord to be enjoyed and embodied.”
It’s been over two years since I hosted that Holy space of Communion, and yet women still approach me and remark how transformative that time of worship was for them in their understanding of God, themselves, and others. I believe this is because within some evangelical churches, the Communion experience is devoid of meaning and intimate relationship, the antithesis of what Jesus modeled at the Last Supper.
In Jason Clark’s doctoral thesis examination of the relationship between Evangelicalism and Capitalism, he notes how his “focus is on how Evangelicals might get their own house in order, and not about the dismantling of capitalism.” Despite the tangled consumeristic relationship between Evangelicalism and Capitalism which Clark so carefully maps out, Clark believes, “Evangelicalism contains within itself resources for a soteriology and theological anthropology which can place the desire for God into more affective worship practices. Worship practices that are, despite their previous problems, able to train and orient our desire ‘rightly.’” He argues this is done, not primarily through the Eucharist or better liturgies, as suggested by other scholars, but through a Spirit-led, whole-of-life social imagery experience that reorders our affections for Christ through co-creation and resistance to the capitalist markets in which we exist.
Clark cites Ward in saying that, for Protestants, “the dislocation between sign and symbol in the Eucharist…lent itself to an undoing of an Augustinian understanding of the relationship between sign and symbol. (Hence, we) see perhaps the early cultural and market forces around faith, the mechanisms of commodification…, where the real presence moved into the consumption of symbols, such that reality was not in the symbol itself but in something that lay beyond it.”
While not an end-all solution, reimagining the Eucharist, or Communion, in a way that restores identity to Christ’s Presence in the meal, while also restoring identity to Christ’s people who gather together and are transformed by the meal, is an excellent place to begin moving Evangelicals closer into a non-commodified relationship with God and others. For as Clark notes, “what we love, not what we give intellectual assent to, is what we do, and what we do is then what we become in our experience and imaginations.”
How might our affections, imaginations, and identity be forged by physically gathering around the Table with God’s people, the Body of Christ, partaking of the real of life with the realist of foods, transforming the commodified into community through Communion?
And then how would our communities be transformed through a reimagined Communion, hosted not only on Sundays, but daily, as God’s people gather with the faithful and the faithless, celebrating the holy hard with one another? I must conclude that when we actually love doing the work of intimately communing with Christ and others, then we will effectively become the people of Christ for others.
 NT Wright, Mark for Everyone (Great Britain: Nicholas Thomas Wright, 2004) 193.
 Clark, Jason. 2018. “Evangelicalism and Capitalism: A Reparative Account and Diagnosis of Pathogenesis in the Relationship.” PhD diss., Middlesex University. 174.
 Ibid., 218.
 Ibid., 193.
 Ibid., 224, 230.
 Ibid., 207.
 Ibid., 228.