Published: November 2008
One of the requirements for ordination in the Diocese of Niagara is a three-month unit of clinical pastoral training. Mine, which took place at Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto, was an experience from which I retain only a few memories.
In the summer of 1982, I rode my bike each day through the streets of downtown Toronto to get to the hospital. At that time, I had behind me one year of theological education in a Canadian setting plus one year of residence in an English theological college. More to the point, perhaps, was that I had only been an Anglican (and a Christian) for a little over four years.
One of the students in my group with whom I developed a good friendship was a Baptist who was studying for ordination at Wycliffe College in Toronto. While my memories of clinical training may be somewhat dim, during this time as the two of us forged our relationship, I do have quite vivid memories of one particular conversation between the two of us.
As was often the case, while we had lunch together, we got involved in a serious theological discussion; this particular time, regarding the Eucharist. My friend asked me a not unreasonable question: "Why don't Anglicans throw away the bread and the wine that is left after the distribution of communion? Why does it all have to be consumed?"
Definitely not unreasonable except for the fact that, at the time of being confronted with this, I had only a little theological training behind me, and a mere five years prior to this, I was Jewish. I gulped. Taking my time before responding, I thought for a moment about what the right answer might be. (Yes, there was a time when I naively assumed there could be a right answer to a theological question. I guess some things do change!) Here's what I said.
"Well, I can't tell you for certain the correct response to your question. I can only tell you why it makes sense to me not to throw away the leftover bread and wine after communion. What is really happening at the time of the consecration is that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ – not the body and blood of Jesus, I added, but the body and blood of Christ. In other words, in the act of raising up the bread and the wine and consecrating these elements, the priest is raising up the Body of Christ – that is, the members of the community. If the bread and the wine are representative of this community, therefore, then throwing away the "leftovers' essentially would be the equivalent of casting aside the "leftovers" of the community.
Pausing for a minute, I held my breath. For whatever reason, I felt as if I had been put in the position of defending Anglicanism and I wasn't sure how I was going to fare.
"Hmm," my friend responded. "That makes some sense." (In fact, it might have made so much sense that this woman ultimately ended up as a priest in the Anglican Church, though I'm sure there were other reasons for this!)
Recently, while performing a task at church that I have always found particularly difficult to do, I was reminded of this conversation.
At Transfiguration, we have a somewhat unique way of introducing newcomers to the congregation. Several years ago, one relatively new parishioner suggested that she would find it helpful if, following worship, there were pictures of parishioners available for her to look at. In this way, if she met someone new during the service, being able to see their picture would help her to identify and remember their name. Following this request, one of the children in the congregation painted a tree on a hall wall, and "paper doll cut-outs" of each household were placed on this "family tree."...
Your donation will help us thrust the Niagara Anglican into the future - communicating the Gospel and the good news of our Anglican tradition to generations to come.