Cathy and I spent Christmas Eve with her mother, which included a Christmas Eve service at her mother’s Methodist church. The service itself was not unlike every other Christmas Eve candlelight service (including those at UU churches), but it did include Holy Communion. And I had to do some quick thinking to decide if I should receive it or not.
Communion is not the centerpiece of Methodist worship the way it is in the Catholic and Episcopal churches – most offer it at one service a month. Further, Methodists practice open communion, meaning that unlike Catholics (and others), they do not restrict it to members of their own denomination. So, the choice was mine.
The Pagan in me didn’t want to do it – the universalist in me did. The Pagan felt that to participate in the central mystery of another faith was to endorse that faith, including the claims of exclusivity I found so hurtful in my Christian days and that I continually argue against now. The universalist felt that to participate was to affirm that there are many paths to Wisdom and Truth, and that it would honor those Methodists who were helpful to me on that part of my spiritual journey. The Pagan kept repeating Morgaine’s line from the end of The Mists of Avalon: “I am vowed elsewhere.” The universalist (and the Unitarian) kept repeating Francis David’s declaration that “God is One.”The universalist won.
I’d like to report I had a great transcendent experience in receiving Communion, but I didn’t. It was just an act of affirming that anything that brings peace and fellowship to our world is a good thing. And for that night, that was enough.