Dipping a pinched piece of bread into a chalice of grape juice under a raised basketball hoop, I glanced at my daughters as they lifted the sacraments to their lips. Grace and I had driven an hour and a half north on an icy Sunday morning to go with Emmali to her church – her church – the one she had chosen of her own free will. We joined dozens of her college peers among rows and rows of metal folding chairs in a borrowed school gymnasium.
A Church Near Campus
Most everyone wore blue jeans and warm smiles, including the pastor who introduced himself to us before the service, holding a ball under each arm that he laughed about confiscating from his two young sons who darted through the crowd as if everyone were trees. Like others who extended their hands to us, he told us they enjoyed having Emmali there; several said they “just love her.” I couldn’t help but say that we do, too.
The pastor talked of Paul who talked of Moses who talked of getting things right under the Old Law and now, thank God, there’s the New Law and who deserves that? Not us, he said, but we get it anyway. The young congregation seemed to get what he was saying by showing up then and then announcing plans to meet up during the week to talk more about it.
Five of them grabbed mikes and guitars and merged under a screen where the words that they sang appeared for us to follow along. Soon people began drifting toward the communion table. I looked at Em and she nodded, her eyes saying yes, let’s go too.
Coming to the Table
A rush of memories poured over me – like when the preschool-aged Emmali asked me why we take communion and I’d bent down to whisper as the organ filled our old Methodist sanctuary, and the nine-year-old Emmali who served me a Cheez-It cracker and red Gatorade in a shot glass at home because I’d missed communion at church to tend to her younger sister who was sick; and the somber afternoon I hugged my 12-year-old Emmali at the communion rail during my mother’s memorial service.
All these years she’d been watching me and joining in with me.
On this day, around this table, my 19-year-old Emmali led the way. In her church home. To my complete joy.