“I feel like I’m in a foreign country where I don’t know the language.” That’s the thought that occurs to me in the middle of worship, as I am rehearsing the communion serving choreography for the 37th time in my head during my colleague’s sermon. There’s a printed guide for leaders that I have tucked inside my worship bulletin. I’m reading and re-reading it with the prayerful fervor.
I help serve communion during the really full Sunday services about once a year, and it makes me a nervous wreck. The first time I ever did it I nearly tumbled off the chancel steps with hands full of juice trays. Communion at the early morning service I serve about twice a month, and I’ve got that down, like I had communion down in my two previous congregations. But this one involves many more moving parts. The mental movies of me screwing it up are endlessly varied: I get up and the wrong time, I grab the wrong trays, I drop the trays, I trip, I stand in the wrong place, I confuse the other servers . . .
All of this anxiety is unnecessary, and it detracts from the value of the thing it’s so worried about. Or rather, it doesn’t, because it can’t; the bread and the cup are still served. Christ is still present. The meaning and the impact of the sacrament don’t depend on perfection from those serving.
Having something down so cold that you don’t even have to think about it is valuable, but so is the pressure of not knowing exactly how it’s supposed to go, because that requires a leap. That forces you to trust your training and trust your people, both of which pay off more than they don’t.