Emeryville Amy

This blog will be a combination of my favorite places in the Bay Area and abroad, memoirs, recipes, restaurant reviews and travel experiences.

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Location: Emeryville, San Francisco Bay Area, CA, United States

Monday, August 22, 2005

Too Deep

Too Deep

I have been going to church my whole life. I was baptized when I was 6 months old at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glendale, California. We attended St. Mark’s faithfully and I sang in the choir every Sunday. I have taken Communion more times than I can count, but I still have trouble getting it right all of the time. One of my earliest mishaps occurred while I was in junior high. I went up to the far right side of the altar rail and knelt down. I placed my right hand over my left as always, except that I was a little lazy or tired that day and my hands were slanted down a bit. When the priest placed the wafer on my hand it proceeded to roll off, drop on the floor and roll like a quarter all the way down in front of the entire rail. Twenty sets of eyes followed the amazing communion wafer until it finally did a little twirl and fell flat against the floor. The priest, who had been chasing it, bent over, picked it up and ate it (you can’t throw it away after it has been blessed). Then with all the heads swerving back to see who the careless parishioner was, the priest walked back to me and said, in not a very soft voice, “Let’s try this again Amy.” Mortified, I obediently held out my hands as level as possible and managed to get the wafer in my mouth while listening to the muffled laughter flowing down the row.

My great fear in that church was the ever-present possibility of tripping. The floor was tile and when it had been polished up really well it was dangerous, especially to any woman who wore heels or otherwise slippery shoes. They always had ushers posted at the steps going up and coming down and more than once I broke what could have been a bad fall by grabbing a hold of their proffered hands. I am a gal who just should always wear sensible shoes, but most nice shoes aren't sensible. Oh, the risks I have taken in the name of fashion. Now I know better.

When I moved up to Berkeley to attend Cal, I began attending the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. It is a wonderful church and I am still worshipping there now, twenty years later. I have been working on staff there for the past eight years.
Often we have communion together as a staff on Tuesday mornings. We follow the style known as ‘intinction’ which means that you take a piece of bread and dip it into the chalice of grape juice. One morning I received the bread and then looked up at Mark, our senior pastor, as he offered me the cup. I wasn’t paying attention to my dipping and ended up sticking my whole hand in the cup. I had to lift my hand out sopping wet and let the juice drip off while Mark just looked in wonder at me. Tim, another pastor, who was standing next to me, simply said, “Too Deep.”

After communion came the other hard part. We all held hands in a circle, mine sticky and wet, and then spent some time in prayer. The one thing that can be as funny to me as flatulence is hearing someone’s stomach growl really loudly. At that time of the day it was not an infrequent occurrence to hear one or more people’s stomach make incredible sounds. Generally, raucous laughter or even muffled giggles is not appropriate during prayer, but sometimes I can’t help myself. And the more inappropriate the laughter is the harder it is to control. Most people are quite composed, but if the stomach music is loud enough it is a daunting challenge for a few of us.

About a year after the “Too Deep” incident I suffered another communion mishap. This time we were all in our choir room which had rows of carpeted levels going down to the center. The worship leaders that day created a very nice contemplative atmosphere with the lights dimmed and candles all around. We had had a quiet worship time and then Mark stood up and took a step down to be in the center to do communion. Since I was right in front of him I got up first to take communion. I successfully did the intinction process and then turned to go. But I forgot that there was a step right in front of me and so I ended up falling flat on my face in one "graceful" flop. It appeared that I was “slain in the spirit” as one moment I was standing and the next I was lying on my face. The entire staff (about 35 people) was watching me. I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t even look up. I just quickly turned over and crawled, head down to my spot. People didn’t want to be rude and laugh, but I did hear some gasping and suppressed giggling. I was hoping that maybe some of the staff had had their eyes shut and missed the whole thing, but apparently most had seen it clearly.

Thankfully,I haven't committed any communion gaffes recently. But there is always a next time...


Anonymous Brandon said...

Hey Amy! I really enjoyed your communion stories. I can totally picture Tim just saying "too deep". One of my embrassing moments at church was when I was so tired that I started falling asleep during the service. What makes it worse is that I snore loudly when I sleep and it started coming out. Tim was sitting right next to me, and this was before I really knew him so I was definitely embarrassed.

In terms of communion, I often like to take the dipped bread back with me and pray before I consume it. One time on a retreat, I had taken a too big piece and dipped it with a lot of grape juice. As I went back to my spot, I triped on something and grape juice went flying at people. That was a little embarrassing as well.

I hope things are going well for you. How long do you have left at the church? Or are you already off on your trip?

11:41 AM  

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