A stone, but no tablet, at the emergency room

It’s been a difficult few weeks for your friendly neighborhood GetReligionistas.

First, George endured major spinal surgery.

Then Mollie seriously injured her ankle.

I’ve got to tell you: I’ve been praying hard that tmatt — and not me — would be the next member of our team struck by a painful malady. But apparently, GR’s head honcho has deeper connections than I realized.

For me, that realization came just before midnight Friday when an excruciating pain struck my lower back. I immediately suspected the culprit: a kidney stone.

I had experienced the same ailment last summer and figured I knew how to treat it. I started chugging water and popping Tylenol and Lortab. I ran repeated hot baths and found a little relief in the tub. I repented of many sins and asked God to take away my punishment (I don’t claim perfect theology in the state I was in!).

Mainly, I lay on my bed and alternated between moaning and groaning.

I was home alone — with my wife and daughter visiting my in-laws in southeastern Oklahoma and my sons enjoying down time in San Antonio after a spring-break mission trip to Mexico. At some point, I decided I needed to go to the emergency room, but I didn’t want to call and wake up any of my local friends in the middle of the night.

By 7 a.m., I couldn’t take it anymore.

I grabbed the previous day’s pants out of the hamper and put on my Nikes (sans socks). And I drove to the hospital. Fortunately, we don’t live far from Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City.

Before I even got to the end of our street, I realized that I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. For a split-second, I considered turning around and going to get it. I quickly decided against it. I did remember to bring my insurance card.

The kind folks at Mercy got me into a room quickly. The nurse gave me a gown to change into and a plastic bottle in which to provide a urine sample. I was a little slow providing the sample. So I was standing in my boxers — having not yet put on the gown — when the nurse returned. The good news: I was in no condition to be embarrassed.


Soon, nausea and pain meds were flowing through my IV — and within just a few minutes, I felt a million times better. If I could carry a tune, I would have sung hallelujah for all the hospital to hear!

Not long after that, they rolled my hospital bed into a CT scan room, where they confirmed a kidney stone. The doc told me it was near my bladder and small enough that it should pass without much trouble (without much “additional” trouble, I guess I should clarify). He prescribed some meds, and just like that, I was ready to go home.

Except that the nurse said I couldn’t drive myself given the narcotics I was taking. And except that I left my cell phone at home, and the list of actual phone numbers I know is quite short. I asked the nurse if the hospital had a phone book. It took her a while, but she eventually returned with the Yellow Pages. Those of you old enough to remember phone books will know why that’s funny.

I did finally reach my wife on her cell phone. She called a friend who — much to my relief — picked me up at the hospital and delivered me home.

You’ll be pleased to know (maybe) that I passed the stone and am feeling much better, although I’m still a little weak today.

That much-too-long personal story is my way of warning you that I’m really in no condition to be critiquing mass media coverage of religion. But life goes on, so I thought I’d call your attention to an interesting story that I came across today.

It’s a piece by Godbeat pro Greg Garrison of the Birmingham News. Here’s the lede:

Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”

But how often should churches celebrate communion?

While liturgical churches such as Catholics and Episcopalians make Holy Eucharist the centerpiece of weekly worship services, a new survey shows that evangelical churches on average celebrate communion once a month.

The February Evangelical Leaders Survey asked: “How often does your church serve communion?” The vast majority (70 percent) said once a month.

“Throughout church history, Christians have celebrated the Lord’s Table in many different ways and with varying frequency,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals. “Right now, the trend among evangelicals is once a month, which seems to balance taking communion regularly while not replacing the central role of the sermon in most evangelical worship services.”

I belong to the Churches of Christ, a non-liturgical fellowship that partakes of the Lord’s Supper each and every Sunday.

I found Garrison’s angle interesting and compelling and would love to see other religion writers report on the survey and provide more insight and details on the practices of various Christian groups.

Given the current state of my squishy brain, I believe that’s all I’ll say about the subject for now. I’d urge GR readers to check out Garrison’s full story and share your analysis and questions in the comments section.

And oh, by the way, drink plenty of water and clear liquids.

Image via Shutterstock

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • http://derekjohnsonmuses.com DerekJohnsonMuses

    Excellent article, although I wish it would delve into the connection to what churches believe about the Lord’s Supper and how often they practice. In my observation, the churches who believe that Christ is actually present (Catholic transubstantiation, Lutheran “in, with, and under”) tend to celebrate it more often. My church body, the LCMS, there are different practices: the churches who adhere closely to the liturgy celebrate every week, the ones who embrace contemporary worship never do. The churches who don’t celebrate as often complain about how long it takes, and don’t talk as much about the benefits of the supper.

    God’s blessings on your recovery.

  • FW Ken

    I would have thought the quarterly Lord’s Supper would get more attention. That was the practice in the Baptist churches of my youth, add will as my could’ve congregation to this day (evening service only,btw).

    God bless you’re urinary tract, Bobby. I’ve had a couple of kidney stones, gall stones, and a ruptured appendix. Hydrocodone is your friend.

  • FW Ken

    I hate auto-correct. It’s my parent’s congregation that still does quarterly Lord’s Supper in the evening service only.

  • Jerry

    I’m glad you’re feeling better. Kidney stones are very much no fun – my wife had one several months ago so I have second hand knowledge of the pain they cause.

  • Richard Mounts

    Thanks be to God that you’re healing, and for all the medical staff, your family andd friends.

    I’m Catholic by choice, a little over 20 years. As I learned about the history of the celebration of the eucharist , I was surprised to discover that there were, over the centuries, even times when it was thought (wrongly) that lay people should not receive communion. Not just not regularly, but practically never. Of course now the mass with communion is celebrated daily and even laity can receive as often as twice a day (under certain circumstances).

    Given my journey from Presbyterianism, through Methodism and agnoticism, I’m curious to know what Evangelicals think about that. Especially given that at least some of them, and other Protestants, don’t even credit that Catholics are Christians. I realize that that wasn’t part of the story, but maybe it should have been.

  • Tim H

    Ouch. My condolences. I have had almost the same experience, only with gall stones. I’m fairly sure several centuries rolled slowly by in between “Let me get you something for the pain” and the nurse arriving with the IV. To this day it is the worst pain I’ve ever felt.

    Also, I’m not surprised tmatt has avoided this round of illness. It’s probably the beards and hats their priests wear, but I’ve long suspected the Eastern Orthodox were secretly wizards ;)

  • Bobby Ross Jr.

    Thanks, everyone, for the kind regards!

  • mollie

    You do have to think that tmatt is sweating bullets right now, though, right?

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      So true, Mollie! :-)

  • James Stagg

    I find it interesting, as Richard points out above, that the Catholic Church celebrates the Eucharist (Holy Communion) daily……..let me say, once more, DAILY. To that you may add DAILY adoration of the Blessed Sacrament……in some parishes, twenty-four hours a day, like in some monasteries and convents. Then to back up this effort, consider the DAILY prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours (seven times a day). Let’s see, that’s about twelve Readings and and twenty Psalm selections from Scripture DAILY. Hmm, maybe the Catholic Church should be noted in the article as the criterium….not only for Holy Communion, but also for Bible readings. Oh, yeah, I forgot, we also get a homily at the DAILY Masses, and the Office of Readings (LOTH) includes a reading from the early Fathers of the Church.
    Maybe someone should investigate where this “weekly”, “monthly”, and “quarterly” business started.

  • chuck

    My last kidney stone was a 16mm monster that required a trip to the hospital and the assisstance of a stone smashing machine. You got off easy.

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      Wow, your compassion overwhelms me, Chuck.

      Your level of warmth is exceeded, obviously, only by the size of your kidney stone.

  • Julia

    I don’t think there was ever a time that lay Catholics were not to receive Holy Communion at all. There did seem to be an ebb and flow about the recommended frequency of receiving, but there was always consecration at every Mass where the priest received as part of the liturgy. Maybe Richard Mounts has mis-heard some things about reception of Holy Communion.

    • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

      Richard is probably thinking of the controversy over “communion in both kinds,” which was a major issue in pre-Reformation movements like the Hussites. There was a long period in the medieval Catholic Church when laity received only the bread, not the wine, during Communion. The Hussites (among others) insisted that laity receive both bread and wine. See:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communion_under_both_kinds#Practice
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussite#The_Four_Articles_of_Prague

      • Richard Mounts

        Hello, Mike Hickerson. I promise that I wasn’t thinking of the Hussite issure.Communion under both species also came up during the Second Vatican Council. In my training as an extra-ordinary minister of communion, we covered the modern ideas and reasons for receiving both kinds of communion gifts.

        As an interesting aside, and in the interest of more education for journalists, either of the communion hosts are complete individual vehicles for receiving communion. When the bread and wine are transformed by the mystery of the eucharist, they EACH become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Christ.

        That’s why it’s always been perfectly licit for communion to be received only under the form of bread. Even today many people receive communion that way, not wanting to consume alcohol, regardless of it’s transformation. It’s even fully valid to receive communion only under the form of wine. In the unlikely event that there wasn’t enough of the communion bread for everyone at mass, the congregation could receive valid communion by drinking only the transformed wine.

    • Richard Mounts

      Hi Julia. I apologize that I wasn’t clearer. I meant to explain that the idea of laity not receiving communion was wrong. It was not ever a Church teaching. Mynrecolletion is that there was, at one time, an idea of some lay people who proposed that the laity shojld receive communion seldom. As I recall, the reason had something to do with the excessive display of piety. The “Look at me! See how holy I am!” sort of thing.

      Darn it! Now you’ve gone and stired me to go digging through books that haven’t seen the light of day for a long, long time. Then I’ll have to start reading them again. Do you realize that I might have to learn something more? I might even find out that I did mis-read something! See what you’ve started? ;-)

  • http://areformedcatholicinthepcusa.blogspot.com Reformed Catholic

    In my branch of Presbyterianism, there’s a variation of frequency. Some congregations where I was a member, it was monthly, the current one its quarterly with ‘Holy Days’ such as Maundy Thursday; around 6 times a year.

    What’s interesting is that John Calvin recommended at least monthly, if not more.

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  • Will

    Confusion may have arisen from reference to “Easter duty”. As I remember reading “the commandments of the church” in the old St. Joseph’s missal, they said that the laity should “assist at divine services” (“assist in the French sense”, as old Pilbrow said) every week (“Sunday obligation”), but were only obliged to RECEIVE at least once a year. (And apparently some people were in the habit of waiting for Easter.)

  • Julia

    Richard: It’s interesting what you say about refraining from receiving Communion too often as meaning that somebody thought they were holier than thou. Now we have the opposite. People stare at you if you don’t go to Communion. I’m 68 and remember when there was a fast from Midnight. So if somebody didn’t receive maybe they had breakfast – so nobody made a big deal if you didn’t go. Now with the extremely short fast there is no excuse and people feel pressured to go so as not to have people think they cheated on the spouse last night.
    Sometimes I don’t go just for the sake of maintaining the voluntary nature of the event.

  • Julia

    Richard: One more anecdote. When I was going to Catholic grade school in the 1950s we all were expected to show for weekday Mass before school. Very few of the school children went to Communion because we had eaten breakfast at home. During some times of the year, we were allowed to bring breakfast to school and had time to eat it after Mass before school started – I think that was Lent and Advent – so almost everybody went to Communion. But even then, some kids didn’t go for one reason or another and nobody thought anything of it – not like today when everybody is expected to go all the time – unless you killed your brother the day before and hadn’t confessed it yet.

  • bob

    Oh, I feel your pain. You are now in the Brotherhood of The Rock. As a journalist with a kidney stone you are free to use the editorial “We”.


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