“Equality comes in realizing that we are all doing different jobs for a common purpose. That is the aim behind any community. The very name community means let’s come together to recognize the unity. Come … unity.”
Thankful thoughts about communion & community. . .
On a Friday evening around 8 o’clock on Bathgate Drive, one could walk past our flat and see the TV on mute, broadcasting a football or rugby match. There’d be the faint sound of Simon & Garfunkel, George Ezra, The Pogues or BBC One coming from the kitchen, where one of the four volunteers is hard at work prepping our weekly community meal (which Leif, Emma, Mark and I share once Emma gets home from Friday Fusion at EBM).
I’ve found myself looking forward to it the closer we get to every Friday, especially when it’s my turn to cook! One thing I wanted to
challenge myself with this year is getting more creative when it comes to cooking and baking, by using ingredients we already have in the flat and maximizing the use of my stipend when a shop is required. It’s been interesting to say the least. . .but I was pretty excited about the Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake I made for Emma’s 23rd two weekends ago! Who knew that dates could make something taste so incredible?!
After a long week at our placements, it’s nice to have this scheduled time together, knowing we’ll all be home to sit and chat about our grievances, our musings or our excitements from the week. This is also when we have an open discussion about what we need to work on as we continue figuring out the adventure of living with (once) total strangers for a year. Before we say “Sláinte!” “Salud!” “L’chaim!” and “Skál!” to life and good health, we lay all of our complaints on the table, work out a solution, and leave the discussion behind us before we take a bite.
Two Sundays ago, I went with Doug, our site coordinator to a Taizé communion service at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church. Taizé, a style of Christian worship practiced by the ecumenical Taizé community in France, consists of repetitively singing harmonized tunes interspersed with readings of scripture, prayer and moments of silence. Being my first Taizé I was excited to find how spiritually nourishing it was for me, as I’ve always found I connect the most with God through music. The service was an organic, stripped-down and simple way to worship, echoing in the communion that followed. As we were partaking, I was reflecting on the different ways, and settings, in which I’ve experienced communion. Although there are common elements eaten, common words said and a common ritual performed, communion is never exactly the same because we are thankful to God for different reasons upon each meal. But the one thing that remains the same no matter the context, is that it’s taken with your community, never on your own. I suppose it wouldn’t be communion at all if we were to do it alone. As the Taizé service concluded and people started to leave, it no longer felt like those in the room were strangers because we gave thanks together, we remembered together, we prayed together and we were one body of Christ together – no matter our circumstances that brought us to the table on that evening.
Similar to taking communion in a church setting, the Belfast YAV community meals have become our adaptation of the Biblical story. Mirroring the ritual in a different setting has emphasized just how important it is to have community in which we can share our praise and thanks to God for the blessings He’s given us, and talk about ways we can do more to show His love in this world. As Thanksgiving approaches on Thursday, I’m looking forward to celebrating this traditional American
meal with my new community, breaking bread and giving thanks to God, and those around the dinner table, for my new home in Belfast and all of the wonderful things that have come along with my new setting.
(Although the stuffing, pecan pie and cranberry sauce are pretty incredible foods to be thankful for, too!)
As was once reinforced for me while reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into The Wild”: “Happiness is only real when shared.” [Spoiler Alert!] When Chris McCandless is lying on his death bed after running away from society, he realizes the mistake he made by abandoning his family and friends, no matter how broken his life may have been at the time. He gave up, thinking he’d find happiness if he escaped his community and went searching for his individuality, his purpose. But what Chris missed out on, is that real happiness, real joy, doesn’t exist apart from celebrating life and God within our communities; it’s these people who help shape our identity. I’m thankful for those I’ve encountered across the world, in Ligonier, New Wilmington, Stirling, Westminster and Belfast, that have shown me the importance of love for God and love for others. It’s this love, this thanksgiving, that’s our common ground. And that’s a good reason to celebrate.
This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for:
- My coworkers’ hospitality at the Vine Centre and the congregation at Garnerville Presbyterian.
- Literature that leaves you thinking about what you read the rest of the day. (Thank you Rob Bell and Harper Lee).
- My 3 housemates, Emma, Mark and Leif, and the community that we’ve created.
- Simon & Garfunkel, Jason Isbell, Nickel Creek, Ben Howard and Leon Bridges. Their music is always spot on and has gotten me through any of the bad moments these past few months.
- Reconnecting with old friends, keeping in touch with those faraway and creating new relationships.
- Having the opportunity to learn more about my faith and teach/share it with others this year.
- New challenges, goals and hopes for the future.