Sunday evening just gone was very special. To a casual observer it may have seemed to be a simple, if beautifully crafted, reflective service for Advent 3. But for those in the know, it was something very special.
There are not many instances of Baptists and Church of Scotland folk sharing worship regularly together; far less where they share communion. We are probably especially unusual in that we swap-preside. For Baptists this is really no big deal; our theology and ecclesiology mean we can, and do, allow all sorts of people, lay and ordained, to preside. For the C of S it is massive, needing approval of the Kirk Session and special dispensation to receive from a non-ordained person in a Baptist church (whilst, in common with most traditions, in their own place it must be an ordained person). You have to know this to understand what happened on Sunday evening.
Our worship was led by a C of S minister in training (I think that's the right word) and it was the first time ever she was presiding at communion - something she could do in our church but not her own (at least so far as I understand it; again this is not unike many other traditions, even URC and Methodists do not allow their trainees to preside).
To be present at such a moment is privilege indeed. I recalled how much preparation I put into my own 'first communion' and how terrified I was of messing it up. It made me pause to recall just how great the privilege that we heretic Baptists take for granted of allowing anyone we choose to undertake this task for us. Who am I, that I should be allowed to lead God's people in this way?
Part of the beauty of the moment was bits that didn't quite fit neatly. Some slightly mixed theology - virtual trans-substantiation language sat in the same sentence as pure memorialism (all bases covered then!) - and some uncertainty about whether to hold onto the wine or drink it straight away - so the the C of S drank and the Baptists held. None of this mattered, because the moment was bigger than any of this. And it was smaller. A group of twenty odd folk gathered in a church hall on a cold December evening unnoticed by the world at large. A bit like a supper in a borrowed room in Jerusalem a couple of thousand years ago where a man made it up as he went along, and his friends found themselves specially privileged.
When you break bread, when you drink wine, remember...
Thank you J for a very special privilege, may God bless you as you bless others in your ministry