Bringing Communion to the Capitol Steps
By Mary Kay Totty It was supposed to be my day off, but instead I brought communion to the steps of the Supreme Court. On June 26, most expected that the court's decision on marriage equality would not come until the following Monday. But mere minutes after 10 a.m., Chett Pritchett texted me, “Put on your collar.” The court's decision was being released and the agreed upon plan was that Reconciling clergy who were available would show up and offer communion to the gathered crowd — whichever way the decision went.
At 11 a.m., Rev. Kate Payton and I were celebrating communion on the sidewalk, at the Supreme Court. For more than an hour, we offered the bread of life and the cup of grace to any and everyone who walked or wheeled past. Wesley Seminary students formed a pickup choir nearby.
Many folks rushed by, avoiding eye contact. Some folks looked at us questioningly. Jewish folk wished us “Shabbat Shalom” and smiled at the challah bread we had consecrated. A delightful diversity of people received communion — United Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians, folks from the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, interns, clergy, tourists, staffers, familiar friends, strangers.
There were smiles, there were tears, there were hugs. United Methodism is all about grace — recognizing God’s grace at work in our lives, practicing the means of grace, extending God’s grace to the world. For me, the street corner communion was an experience of all three.
The Supreme Court decision to nationally legalize same-sex marriage was a sign of God’s grace at work in our country to increase love and justice. Receiving the sacrament of communion is a means of grace that John Wesley encouraged Methodists to practice often. Taking communion out of the sanctuary and to the public square was extending grace in an unexpected but powerful way.
Many who received communion did not expect the Church to be present with them in their celebration of marriage equality, and this greatly saddens me. But I get it. My own beloved United Methodist Church has language enshrined in our Book of Discipline that oppresses and excludes our LGBT brothers and sisters, that would deny same-gender couples the rites of marriage in our churches and by our clergy.
Listen up, Church! Yes, you Church universal. Yes, you, United Methodism. We can do better! We MUST do better! We are called by God to live into grace-filled love and let go of antiquated interpretations of scripture which harm and exclude God’s beloved children who are created to be same-gender loving.
My congregation, Dumbarton United Methodist Church, has been intentionally welcoming LGBT persons and their families for more than 27 years. We have chosen the path of Biblical obedience and offer the rites of marriage in our church by our clergy to all couples equally. We will continue to work for justice in our church and world. We invite everyone to be a part of this movement for justice, equality, and inclusion.
Pray for the United Methodist General Conference in May 2016 that we may finally move forward in full acceptance of our LGBT brothers and sisters. Support the Love Your Neighbor Coalition, which is working together on justice and inclusion issues for General Conference 2016. And if by chance (or the movement of the Holy Spirit) you find yourselves in Washington D.C., know that whoever you are and whomever you love, you are welcome at Dumbarton UMC!