You probably have one. A small rectangular box. With a tiny flask, doll-sized bread plate, and slots for disposable communion cups. Maybe it was a gift from your first congregation. Or maybe you purchased it as a celebration of entering ministry.
But I’m begging you. Get rid of it. Or repurpose it. Or at least leave it on a shelf for now.
There is another way. One that better fits the intimate meal that we share—and the feast that we anticipate. One that honors the power of how our symbols unleash the good news. One that is rooted in your worship strength of hands-on participation for each person.
I hear back from pastors frequently on this. It’s ministry-changing. And life-changing.
Here it is. Make a traveling communion/ministry kit that is lavish rather than merely efficient.
THE LAVISH LIST (ADAPT AS NEEDED)
For less money than that rectangular box, you can go to your thrift store for the following items:
- A compact picnic basket (or bag or small suitcase) that fits in your car.
- A small, beautiful goblet for a chalice.
- A small, beautiful plate for a paten.
Then add in a few items from your church closets:
- An altar cloth or table covering (Yes, I mean the real, Sunday-morning cloths! They were intended as ministry tools. So let them work.)
- A couple of unscented votive candles with a lighter or matches
- A small, recognizable dish from the church’s cupboard (To leave any remaining communion bread as a meal, if appropriate. Again, put these ministry tools to work!)
- Two small containers of ointment—scented and unscented
- A small cross
Ask a lay leader to laminate two large-print copies:
- The Great Thanksgiving or other communion liturgy (Remember, the UMC BOW p. 51 is designed for this.)
- The Lord’s Prayer (as your congregation prays it together)
Finally, add a few things from your local store. Replenish as needed:
- Sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, a mini bottle of dish soap
- Some luxe, colored cloth napkins (for a washable table/altar covering)
- A few white cloth napkins
- A small bottle of juice or wine—whatever your congregation typically uses
- Small loaves of a delicious bread (one per visit)
- A battery-operated candle (for hospitals and other settings)
You might consider adding (and restocking) these, too:
- Artwork by children
- Bulletins or pictures
- Hand painted cards (You have talented laity!)
Now imagine walking into someone’s presence. Someone at home. Someone in a nursing facility. Someone in a hospital. Someone away from home. Someone in crisis or pain. Someone who needs the beauty of the good news to show up. Right where they are. Fully. Lavishly.
Greet them warmly—even under a mask. Slowly open the basket. Prepare for the sacrament with care. Find a small surface to lay out the altar cloth. Perhaps invite help to set the table. The cross. The candle. The goblet and plate that have been transformed into chalice and paten. The bread and drink that have become the body of Christ. The community that surrounds you without the trivial limits of time and space.
You’ll have to adjust for abilities and settings. Of course. You already know how to do that. Because God insists on it. But offer the fullest possible celebration of sacrament for each person. Not pre-blessed nibbles, but now-present divine hospitality. Not a one-size-fits-most prepackaged experience. But a recognizable meal-feast encounter with the Lord. In the summoned presence of those great-cloud witnesses.
Bring in an entire small loaf. Leave the leftovers behind on a church plate. It becomes a symbol that keeps working. God has a thing for leftovers, remember?
Sacrament is so big. And that rectangular box is so small and full of shortcuts.
Perhaps preparing this basket is a little more effort. Maybe a little less convenient. But grace never worried about effort and convenience anyway. And remember that preparing this basket each week might be a treasured ministry for one of your lay leaders. They can pray and prepare for each one to be served lavishly.
And you can set this basket in front of your altar each week. To invite the congregation’s prayers. And to remind them that we are always a tent people. Ready to go, care, and feed wherever God sends us.
Our worship practices are also ministry practices that work on not-Sundays.
I remember one small-setting pastor who was reluctant–even resistant–to make this switch. Actually, she may have been outraged. The box was good enough. A year later, however, I saw her at an event. She simply held up a hand-sewn bag. Across the room, she took out a brass chalice and paten, a compact purple table cloth, and a few other traveling ministry objects. She later explained that she always kept it with her.
The change came during a visit to a nursing facility. She noticed that her disposable communion cups were identical to the ever-present pill cups. It shook her that our sacramental hope might be confused with a reminder of disease, decline, pain.
She vowed to never confuse them again. No more crumbs or shortcuts. She designed her own bag and stocked it with an extra set of the church’s ministry tools. Simple. Lavish. Right.
Would you send me pictures of your lavish traveling communion kit? Or your traveling remembrance-of-baptism tools. To share. And to inspire each other in this work.
Thanks for your ministry,