Cloud of Witnesses at the Eucharist
“The gifts of God for the people of God.” “Holy Eucharist II, p. 264, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing 1979.
I cannot keep thinking about and praying for two women, Vicki and Diane, in my spiritual direction class who live on the North and South Carolina coasts and whose towns are being battered by this storm. My mind wanders back to Kanuga Conference Center at one of the graduations at the Haden Institute for Spiritual Direction. We are in the Chapel of Transfiguration. A flute is playing in the background. The eight women graduating process in and sit in chairs in front of the raised altar. They share their story and their journey and the work they have done on this spiritual quest to learn how to lead others to find God in their lives. They receive their certificates and plaques and then begin the Eucharist together around the altar above us.
“The gifts of God for the people of God.” As the bread and wine are offered, they ask each person to come up the several steps to the altar to give themselves the bread and wine.
Suddenly I panic. There is no rail for the steps to the altar as was built when I started as the deacon at St. Luke’s and at St. Mark’s when members realized I had difficulty with steps and quickly built a rail. I say a prayer of gratitude for the kind and thoughtful people of both congregations. What will I do?
I remember the ten amazing women that I had spent the past year with studying about spiritual direction. We had prayed together, eaten together, done spiritual direction, verbatims, dream work, and most especially shared our life together.
Suddenly my group surrounds me. They do not miss a beat. We will all go to communion together, they whisper, not separately. They will all stand with me at the bottom of the stairs to the altar. Ann, the priest in our group will offer bread and Bridget will serve wine. There are not words to describe what it was like standing in the middle of that long feminine line with my spiritual friends at the foot of the altar that seemed so far away but instead was moved to be right in front of us. I had a glimpse of what it is like to feel Christ not only inside of me but beside me, standing, walking with me on this journey, present and surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
The picture today is from the following year at our own class’ graduation. I hold that group of spiritual friends in my prayers daily, and now especially Vicki on the coast of North Carolina and Diane in South Carolina, and I will never forget their kindness. I have experienced how well they care for others. I pray someone also is caring for them today.