Diolch, Dillwyn

One day, I ran into the vicar somewhere between the church and the vicarage. I would have been around fifteen or sixteen, I suppose – there’s a lot I don’t remember about that time. Over the past few months (I don’t remember how long), I had been spending my Sunday church hours playing the piano for the Sunday School, which met separately from the church service, in the hall at the edge of the churchyard.

For years, when I first began going to church, I didn’t even know that there was a Sunday School, since I had no reason to walk around that side of the square. But at some point I’d discovered its existence, and they’d discovered that I played piano well enough to accompany a few children’s hymns, and the deal was done. I spent my Sundays serving the children instead of in church.

The vicar stopped, and greeted me. I answered politely. Then he said,

“You need to come to Communion. It’s been too long.”

I thought, I’m busy, with your Sunday School children. Don’t you know that?

I said, “I’ve been playing piano for the Sunday School.”

He nodded.

I thought, I didn’t ask for this, you know. They asked me, and I said yes. I’m doing them – I’m doing you – a favour. Don’t you appreciate it?

I said, “They asked me to.”

He nodded.

I thought, what do you know, anyway? About me? About my life?

I said, “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t leave them in the lurch!”

He nodded. Then he said, with a gentle air of finality,

“You need to come back to Communion.”

Years later, feeling spiritually restless and unmoored, I was struck by the realization that it had been a while since I had presented myself at Communion. I thought, “You need to come back to Communion.”

I’ve been remembering, while working this week on the Exhortations from the 1790 Book of Common Prayer. That most comfortable sacrament, God’s feast, the table laid, the places ready, lacking only the guests. How disappointed God would be if we failed to show. How unnecessarily we withhold ourselves from the comforts of Jesus’ body and blood, Jesus’ sharing of himself with us.

I hear the appeal of the authors of the Exhortations, their love for God, their knowledge of the love of God, and their desire to share that love with the people of God. I hear their tenderness for their flock, and their thankfulness to God, and I hear him once again.

Not, “you should.” Not, “you ought.” Not even, “why haven’t you?”

But, “You need to come back to Communion.”

He died earlier this month. Praying him light and peace, comfort to his family, I give thanks for his life and ministry; especially that ministry in passing, between the church and the vicarage, on a street corner; a brief but lasting appeal, an invitation to a feast issued to a slightly famished teenaged soul.

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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7 Responses to Diolch, Dillwyn

  1. heidiannie says:

    The gentle insistence of necessity- looks not at the circumstances surrounding us, but at the absolute needs of the hungry soul.

  2. That’s beautifully put, Heidi

  3. Ken Ranos says:

    I’m still trying to figure out why Sunday school met during church…

  4. Karen Gay says:

    This really spoke to me. I am a church organist and often pass up the opportunity to receive Jesus in Communion because I am providing music during that time. I realized I am declining Jesus’ offer to meet with Him, be filled with Him, be nourished by Him, as if I don’t need Him. I am also a massage therapist and often wonder why anyone would pass up an opportunity for the wonderful blessings of a massage. Everyone needs a massage! I have been passing up the blessings of being nourished by God, being fed by His Holy Presence. This is what I truly need to carry out the life He has called me to do. Stop talking yourself out of spending time with God, appreciate the opportunities and celebrate!

    • Serving is a wonderful seduction, and so is music! It’s good to have someone outside ourselves to remind us of what we need now and again. If receiving Communion is consistently difficult (rather than just occasionally impossible), could you speak to the clergy about finding a way for you to be fed at the table, too? I’ve taken the sacrament into organ lofts on occasion (which has given me a new appreciation of the athleticism of certain church organists, as well as their music!), and there must be other, more elegant solutions!

    • Ken Ranos says:

      Our keyboardist here, during the last of our three services every weekend, will take a break from the hymn-playing to jump in to the communion line so she can receive it. It’s okay to do that, and sometimes the silence can do the people good. Plus, it’s fun to catch the loud snippets of gossip that slip out before people realize that there isn’t any music covering them up anymore!

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