I was privileged to be part of the Incarnate Gathering last week, and whilst I was asked to speak I received far more than I gave. The theme was Other and I shared around Other as the space between us. It was great to meet Abdul Rehman Malik who is a journalist, speaker and part of the Radical Middle Way. Abdul spoke on “Everything Perishes Except the Face of God: Seeking the One in a Hyper Diverse World”. His shared stories from the Muslim tradition offered some great insight into notions of Other.
In my usual way this ended up with me putting two and two together and coming up with five. The weekend started me wondering about how notions of Other connect with the ongoing story of fullness of life. We know there can be no fullness of shalom for us, when there is poverty, oppression and disparity for others, when we cannot break bread with others who may differ in perspective. It started me wondering about the points of tension, in the Christan faith that separated myself and Abdul, and the particularity of communion.
One person shared a story of how they had had a passover meal, with people of different backgrounds and faith stories and towards the end had moved into another room to take communion. On the table the symbols the bread and wine were surrounded by the everyday life objects that had unconsciously been placed on the table, a nappy, keys, bags, etc. It was a wonderful image of community and incarnation, yet they were conscious that as they shared communion no matter how inclusive their language was, some would be excluded or exclude themselves from the table.
Now I know I am dangerous ground playing with the Sacrament, but what if communion is another part of the ongoing story. More than that what if by its very nature it has the possibility to include rather than exclude, to help us towards the redemption of the whole of creation, not by seeing other as something that may taint, but as a resource towards wholeness and shalom. Something that helps both us and another creatively hold the space between us, something that recognises difference but imagines and commits to a new way of being.
We need to remember communion has never been a static thing, it is different in different traditions, its elements have changed over time and with different cultures, as have the liturgy and words. BUT Imagine the passover was just the start, the last supper a step along the way, and that the christian tradition thus far has helped us, but now communion once again needs to be re-imagined, perhaps it even needs to be liberated from the christians. It will not be an easy journey as we are both part of a radical monotheistic tradition, but I long for the day when Abdul and I can wrestle in the space between us and perhaps work out what it means for us break bread together.