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My First Communion

How is it that at 48 years old – and Jewish! – I received my first communion from a spiritual rockstar, you may ask?

Well, it all started when I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber’s OnBeing interview. Who knew that the heavily tattooed, ex-addict and stand-up comic turned dynamic, compelling Lutheran Pastor of Denver’s House for All Sinners and Saints would so quickly get under my skin.

After listening, I immediately consumed the unedited video of this interview.

Next, I downloaded and devoured the audio of Nadia’s recently released book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint.

Everything building to the pièce de résistance when I found myself sitting in church last Sunday. From the moment we walked in we instantly felt welcome, part of the community. And there I was, weeping throughout the sermon, relishing the full-on four-part a cappella harmony while – to be honest – trying not to look too much like a fangirl…a Jewish tourist in the foreign land of Christ.

But uh oh, out of nowhere – cuz remember, I’m Jewish – it was time for the Eucharist.

I flashed back on going to Midnight Mass with a friend and her family one Christmas Eve when I was in high school. My father told me that whatever I did, not to take communion. That it would be disrespectful and blasphemous. I never even considered partaking.

I turned to my beau and whispered this story. He then pointed to the booklet in my hand. Here at House for All Sinners and Saints, it said in black and white, everyone without exception is invited to receive the bread and wine at communion.  Everyone. And so with that, and an elbow nudge, I jumped up and into line and dropped into the full experience and what it meant to me. I noticed feeling connected to something larger than myself, not only a divine source necessarily, but rather actual communion with this community.

So much so, that we even stayed for the potluck!

One of the lovely and welcoming women I met during the potluck told me that writer Anne Lamott said that there were two types of Jews: “Moses-y Jews” and “bagel-y Jews” – and she wanted to know which one I am. Well, since my relationship to my faith beyond my Bat Mitzvah, has been comprised of being with my family every Passover, a few darts in and out of Synagogues here and there (mostly there), and lectures or workshops with Jewish Renewal Rabbis, I concluded that I am definitely of the “bagel-y” persuasion.

Which is precisely what drew me to the brilliant Nadia Bolz-Weber. She speaks to me. She makes sense to me. Her sermons – totally reverent yet also completely current and relatable – remind me of what I dig about Jewish Renewal. It’s all about making the ancient relevant to modern day.

When it was my turn, I put my hands out and received…I didn’t know what to say or do so I defaulted to the good manners my mother instilled and just smiled and said “Thank you.”

I met Nadia after the service and let her know – and yes, to my mortification, a little fangirl-y – how I’d found her (and only an hour away from home, no less – what are the chances?!) and that she had the great honor of giving me my first communion. To which she replied, “You’re not my first Jew!” And we exchanged reciprocal gratitude.

So this week, as we in the States celebrate Thanksgiving, I draw on my experience at House for All Sinners and Saints to remind me once again how much I can grow and learn when I reach outside of my comfort zone and do something different. And how grateful I am for varied opportunities to connect with others around what resonates most.

I’d love to hear from you…what will you commit to do, in the name of connection, beyond your comfort zone?


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