Broken bread for a broken system

by Emily Ralph,

communion handsIt’s a misty evening as I sit cuddled under a blanket with my laptop and a snoring dog, watching the presidential debate.  Even as I type, President Obama and Governor Romney are debating the economy.

I feel my temperature rising, and it has nothing to do with the blanket.  I grew up in a family in which “debate” sounds more like calm discussion and a stern voice feels like yelling.  Just watching the debate is feeding my anxiety.

And, if anyone else experiences conflict like I do, the election this coming November could be incredibly divisive for the church.  And how much moreso, when you mix people like me with those who are very comfortable with debate, raised voices, and hearty conversation?  How do we keep our eyes focused on our shared allegiance—to Jesus Christ—in the midst of such diversity and disagreement?

Leaders in Mennonite churches across the nation suggest a simple answer: Election Day Communion.  “Election Day Communion is a way of engaging and resisting the world,” reflected Joe Hackman, pastor at Salford (Harleysville, Pa.) congregation, who will be hosting Election Day Communion this November.  “It’s a small demonstration of being the peace of Christ in a noisy, partisan culture—a sort of countercultural statement about what we believe ultimately holds our politics together.”

“During the day of November 6, 2012, we will make different choices for different reasons, hoping for different results,” the Election Day Communion website says. “But that evening while our nation turns its attention to the outcome of the presidential election, let’s again choose differently. But this time, let’s do it together.”

Tuesday night communion is not a new idea—Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches have held Tuesday communion services for generations.  And Election Day Communion doesn’t just belong to Mennonites.  Doylestown (Pa.) congregation will be hosting an ecumenical service, according to associate pastor KrisAnne Swartley.  “We are inviting other area churches outside the Mennonite denomination to partner with us in planning the service,” she said.  “We want to cross all kinds of cultural dividing lines in this communion service—we know that God’s Kingdom of love also crosses all boundaries.”

Wayne Nitzsche and the elder team at Perkasie (Pa.) congregation plan to keep the service simple.  “Our church mission statement is ‘to model Jesus,’” Nitzsche said.  “As we come together the evening of November 6, we’ll model Jesus in some small way as we remember that Jesus non-violently addressed the political powers and established a new [politic] of love. We love as he loved as we eat and drink with those who voted and those who didn’t.  ALL will be welcomed at the table.”

As I type, I feel my heartbeat slowing.  Governor Romney and President Obama are still battling it out in the background, but the rhetoric no longer feeds my anxiety.  There is hope.  “God continues to demonstrate that another world is possible,” said Chris Nickels, pastor of Spring Mount (Pa.) congregation. “There is a path that leads out of a divisive cultural reality and Christ invites us to come to the table to take a step forward together.”

Where will you spend the evening on Election Day?  Find a list of congregations hosting Election Day Communion services on the official website.

Election Day Communion