Please welcome today’s guest writer, Kayleigh Fongers (‘18). Kayleigh graduated with a major in writing. Born and raised in the mitten, she currently lives in Muskegon but spends a lot of time in Grand Rapids. Right now she’s a communications intern and a waitress, and she enjoys tacos, Everybody Loves Raymond reruns, and those gorgeous Lake Michigan sunsets.
The first time I took communion with wine, I was at a church in Boston and wearing hiking boots. And Yo-Yo Ma was there.
Yeah, it was definitely one of those moments when you look back and realize you must write about it.
When I woke up that morning, I was eagerly anticipating a day of firsts. My first church service with my fellow peers and professors on the New England Saints trip. My first time in Boston. My first time taking the subway.
Of course, it was also my first time visiting Trinity Church, a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts that dates back to the 1800s. As we arrived in Copley Square after a successful first subway venture and made our way to our destination for Sunday worship, I was thankful for my weatherproof boots and my ability to navigate the snow-laden sidewalks with relative ease.
Then I saw the church—an ornate, Romanesque structure with an elaborately carved exterior, seeming even more stately against the warm morning sunlight and glittering snow surrounding the building. And I immediately started second-guessing my choice of footwear.
Upon walking inside, my mental worries subsided as I became distracted by the church’s beautiful interior. A long aisle of crimson carpet led way to the dark wooden pews, and the ceiling was so high that I feared a neck injury as I tried to examine the murals and paintings up above and around me. Admittedly, I spent a little too much time gazing at the beautiful stained-glass windows throughout the service.
When it was time to partake in the Holy Eucharist, I was a little hesitant. It was an unfamiliar place and a bit of an unfamiliar worship style, and I didn’t like the idea of going up to the altar and not knowing what to do or potentially messing something up. And did I mention the hiking boots?
As I followed some of my classmates toward the front of the sanctuary, trying to walk as casually and gracefully as one possibly can while wearing clodhoppers, I was relieved to see that other members of the congregation were bundled up in boots, coats, and other forms of winter-appropriate attire.
And so I arrived at the altar, and I knelt at the altar rail, and I studied the people around me as one does when trying to memorize exactly what to do and not commit any sort of ecclesiastical faux pas. Before I knew it the bishop was standing in front of me and it was my turn. Having wine instead of juice ended up being slightly anticlimactic as all that came with that experience was a bit of a stronger aftertaste.
It’s strange that in the moments leading up to my participation I felt so self-conscious, but in the actual time of joining in the sacrament, I wasn’t thinking about my little problems. In those moments, rather, I found comfort in the familiarity of Jesus’ words.
“This is my body, broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
There is no command to slip on a nice pair of shoes before approaching the altar. There is no need to frantically freshen up one’s hair in an attempt to fix a style best known as “hat head.” There is no penalty for feeling self-conscious or uncertain.
There is grace. And as I knelt there, remembering the words and no longer worrying about my boots but instead relishing in the truth that all I have to do is come just as I am, I felt a sense of belonging that I haven’t since.
Fifteen minutes later my professor huddled us students together at the end of the service and told us in an excited yet hushed voice that Yo-Yo Ma had been sitting toward the front of the sanctuary.
And I knew for more reasons than one that it would be a communion experience I’d never forget.