So we wound our way round the block and into church, where the elderly, infirm or plain embarassed were awaiting us, and the service proper got under way. We had 2 miniscule acolytes on duty, who were having a lovely time fencing with their palm branches at every opportunity, and providing entertainment for all and sundry. It's probably just as well that they were out of sight when we got to the dramatised Passion Gospel,in which I got to read the part of Jesus. To say this was mind-blowing, in a church where the “priest as icon of Christ” argument has been used so often to limit women’s ministry, would be a serious understatement. To move from that Gospel to say the Eucharistic prayer emphasised for me what a huge journey so many people have made. It’s sad that too often I can only see those who still can’t accept my priesthood, when there are dozens who welcome and affirm it, bless them. For a few months I’d been vaguely paranoid as communicant numbers have been slightly, but unmistakably, down when I’m celebrating, and I wondered just who the silent objectors might be. Today suggested that perhaps WonderfulVicar has been right in his assertion that it was just an unhappy co-incidence that a dozen people happened not to be there on “my” Sundays. I know it’s not about numbers, but it’s still comforting not to feel that people are absenting themselves from the Sacrament because of me…Certainly today people turned out in force, with more there than on Christmas Eve.In fact, despite breaking up the last 10 wafers into quarters, I was still one short at the high altar, which was not such a good feeling. It’s wonderful being a distributor of God’s grace most of the time, but when my inability to count makes that grace appear limited…Oh dear :-(
I felt uncomfortably symbolic of all the ways that the church has impeded the very relationship with God that we exist to facilitate…But then I realised that there was still plenty of wine, and the person concerned was totally happy to receive under one kind only…and I heard God laughing gently as he pointed out that I don’t have to be the one doing the facilitating! Sometimes I'm a distressingly slow learner.