When you walk into Journey’s Worship Center and see the long wooden tables lined up in the center aisle, what’s your response? Remembrance?
It’s a ritual, of course, a sacrament, actually. A sacred act set out by Jesus “on the night he was betrayed,” as told by Paul in the book of I Corinthians, chapter 11, to be perpetuated in remembrance of his broken and bleeding body.
The act of getting out of your seat and reaching for some matzo and a cup; chewing, swallowing, praying, singing praises is all part of the experience. This remembrance happens roughly at the start of every new sermon series.
But there is another sacred act of service that takes place behind the scenes. This one involves cooperation, planning, mishaps, laughter and dedication. And a little trailer at the back of the building.
Tommie Potter is the head of communion preparation, taking over for April King, who helped with communion and inherited the job after years of working with Daniel Benitez. Tommie checks with Marnie Stitzer to make sure that the supplies are purchased and informs her team of the communion date.
The team arrives at 5 p.m. on Friday to get ready for the 7 p.m. service, then at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning and stays for clean-up after the second service. Pat Ontiveros, Ing Denison, Francine Phillips, and Ron and Terry Perry complete the Friday team. Pat was the Eucharist Minister in his family’s Catholic church and with the Knights of Columbus and considers it to be a sacrament that brings us face to face with holiness. Ing takes care of table decor. Francine has been on the prep team for three years. Ron and Terry Perry are relatively new and very welcome.
“It’s my dad’s favorite time at church,” said Terry. “We were a Catholic family. When he got sick, many people brought the Eucharist to the house so he could have it.”
“Where else can you prepare a Thank You toast to Jesus for 2,500 people?” said Ron.
“The whole practice of communion – the gathering, the crush, the waiting and fermentation – got me researching wine making,” said Tommie. “It has been a very spiritual experience to be a part of communion. I’ve actually gone back to school to get a wine certificate and one of my textbooks is called The Wine Bible. The more I learn, the more I see God as the vine and learn lessons from the vineyard.”
Together the team prepares 16 trays for Friday night, 20 for the 9 a.m. service and 16 or 17 for the 11 a.m. service on Sundays. The crunch time is in between services on Sunday and that’s where the broken cups, spills, miscounts and other issues tend to arise. Crackers can get soggy or too crushed and the devices used to squirt the juice into the cups have been known to get stuck shut. Francine recently got “baptized” with an entire tray of communion cups in an epic collision with a band member coming through the curtain.
For Ron and Terry, communion is just one of many Journey activities that they support hands-on. They are active and reliable in the Food Bank preparation and distribution and Ron picks up two loads from the San Diego Food Bank each month to supplement our donations. He also serves at the annual Christmas Tea. Ron is active in the Men’s Breakfast meetings and teaches two Bible studies for men each week. He also mentors a six year-old child and works with a pre-release program for parolees. In other words, if there is a need, Ron is all over it.
Terry serves in the K-2 Sunday School, leading toddlers at the 11 a.m. service. “Most of the time I go where Ron goes,” she said. Her supportive and practical service helps the team work smoothly.
Ron and Terry’s commitment to Journey Church makes their participation on the prep team easy.
“Tommie asked and I said, ‘Sure,’” said Ron.
About two-thirds of Journey’s attendees join in communion even though all are invited to partake. When it’s over, Ing puts away the table decorations, the team cleans up the trays and the serving bowls and the maintenance crew gets all the cups from the cup holders under the chairs.
“Communion is a way to connect with something that is global about our faith,” said Francine. “It’s ancient and widespread and a way to identify with Christ’s sacrifice that was made for our healing and forgiveness. Yes, it’s symbolic and mystical in some ways, but we are all welcome to lean into that. When my grandfather offered communion in Italian at his church, we knelt in between the pews – old, slow men and restless children alike. There’s something amazing about that.”
If you would like to help with the communion preparation, you can indicate it on your program and put it in the box by the exit.