This year the theme was: Table of Thanksgiving: How the Eucharistic Forms Us. As always, the plenary speakers and workshop facilitators were thoughtful and helpful. Each year I take home something to use in my work at church. This year was strange since I do not have church work (at the moment) to immediately apply my learnings. I still took notes and got resources to store away in my toolbox. My immediate learning this year was deeply personal.
I experienced many moments of pure grace. These are two that are still with me.
· A friend greeted me with a hug, looked me in the eye and said, “How are you doing in this in-between time?” So many times, we do not want to make reference to someone’s pain. It can be uncomfortable. And yet if we are willing to risk discomfort, we can transcend the surface relationship and be truly human with one another. Just him asking the question was enough.
· During one of the refreshment breaks, a fond acquaintance asked how life was recently. I answered, “It has been difficult.” He said, “Yes, for me too.” He asked about me and then told me that his companion died during Holy Week after multiple cancer diagnoses. We sat knee to knee in a crowded conference room quietly listening to each other – to all that was said and unsaid. It was a holy moment saturated in mutual vulnerability.
When we are the Body of Christ together, there is no hierarchy of pain or grief. We are simply one – together. It struck me that at a conference titled: How Eucharist Forms Us; I experienced over and over again the concrete reality of that formation. As a post communion prayer states, “After now receiving the Body of Christ, send us out to be the Body of Christ for the world.”
This is what I experienced: the best of what church (the Body of Christ) can be. This is what will sustain me until I can get out my tool box and use it again.