one summer

Posted on August 29th, by dave in dave harrity, making manifest, rumination, theology, vocation, writing. 5 comments

one summer

{the following is a quick sneak-peak at a reflection from the forthcoming book “Making Manifest: On Faith, Writing, and the Kingdom At-Hand” available from Seedbed later this year. let us know what you think! is there something sacred happening here? don’t be shy…}

My daughter once decided to stay with my wife and me during church, opting out of her preschool Sunday morning class. We were reluctant, worried she might get bored or noisy. We were completely wrong.

In our church, we have an open table policy for Communion—our clergy are firm on the idea that “it’s God’s table not ours—all are welcome.” I know this idea is offensive to many, fascinating to some, and supported by a few, but it’s our belief that if someone is hungry for the body of Jesus then maybe no earthly tie or verbal confession should stand in the way of their receiving the meal. After all, every one of us comes to the altar looking for a handout, and anyone who comes gets a handout—the Economy of God is based on charity, not what’s earned.

When the time came, our daughter—who was a little more than three years old at the time—followed us up to the rail. She was as reverent as the rest of us—focused on the sacrament it seemed, prayerfully poised, keeping a penitent pace.

We went to kneel and she followed, fitting between us. We folded our hands to pray. She folded her hands to pray. She mimicked all our motions. The priest came to place wafers in our hands. And before I realized what was happening, my daughter reached out and received the body. She bowed her head as if she’d been praying for years. When the blood came around, she dipped and ate—one fluid motion.

I was stunned at how fast it had all happened, how natural it seemed; I didn’t dare interrupt her. Along with the other forgiven pilgrims, we moved back to our pew, content in our tiny transformations, our little renewals.

I wonder about what the sacrament might do to my little girl—had she changed? After all, the body and blood are designed to change us, revise us, make us new. Is there an age limit? A state of mind that one must achieve before the elements can alter us?

Maybe the sacrament is so radically real and transformative that she was made whole right in front of us. And maybe she did it with the best intentions, for the right reasons—absent pretense, spectacle, vacillation, or worrying about what others might think.

There she was, my daughter lined up along with our whole community of broken believers—a wine soaked wafer, a respectful smile—coming to Christ for the very first time. Sure she might have been doing it just following our lead, and I don’t think she understood the significance of it on an intellectual level. But I’d like to find one person that fully gets what goes on in any of the sacramental traditions. We shouldn’t mistake our informed best guesses for solid certainties. It’s a sin to mistake our informed best-guesses for unshakable certainties.

Maybe her understanding was unadorned, essential, completely clean—blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. She closed her little eyes and breathed. It was a holy moment for all of us—new acceptance. It’s a kind of holiness I’ve rarely witnessed, only when I’m bathed in the grace of silence, when my life is being revised toward the peace of God—the closest I come to communion without the body and blood of Christ being taken in.

Cynics will only be able to see theology here—they’ll balk at what they think is some lack of respect, determined to keep Christ’s kingdom small, elite, and guarded; they might even say it’s for the sake of unity. Some might even call it sacred. But they should consider that my daughter—by her own aspiration—came just as Jesus asked us to: as a child—her imagination capable of containing the complexity of God and the simplicity of restitution. God was offered and she stepped forward.

That’s the divine streak within us—a great hope locked into the blessed elements. A provision for all of us, even smallest daughters. A shift in the bedrock of a little girl’s heart and mind.

God is inviting you into some holy life—will you wander with me, with her, with the rest of us?



Dave Harrity is author of “Making Manifest: On Faith, Writing, and the Kingdom At-Hand” available from Seedbed later this year. The 28-day devotional-style book features meditations and writing exercises designed for individual and communal spiritual formation. His poems and other writings have appeared in journals and periodicals stateside and abroad. As Director of Antler, he travels far and wide conducting workshops on faith, imagination, worship, and creative writing. He’d love to come visit your church, seminary, college, or other religious community. Email him here.

5 Responses to “one summer”

  1. Ken says:

    Our pastor always used to preface the Lord’s Supper with a dire warning that if someone decided to join in who did so unworthily, they might even “sleep, a Christian euphemism for death”.

    It scared me of course at the time (am I worthy today??) but over the years it has become a sort of anchor that reminds me to experience communion fully, if not with worth then at least with respect, and it has helped me to appreciate the sacred. Still, it is a refreshing thought to consider little Em going forward without even thinking about worth, or respect..

  2. Nicholas says:

    Very thought-provoking! I look forward to reading the book!

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