This week, I was reminded of a story. I have told it a few times. It's one of those stories that unfolded in slow motion, and in which the main characters, we, Greasy and Grubby, were a little bit clueless.
Our group was at the Bishop's church for worship with the pastors and a pretty good crowd. First Mondays usually bring a bigger crowd because the service includes Holy Communion. Before worship, the Bishop asked the two of us to help serve the meal. "OK," we said. Worship went along as usual, and the time came for Communion. We walked to the front, up the steps, stood by the altar. We were a little nervous, not exactly sure how we were supposed to "help." Hand washing. Words of institution. Greasy was handed the small plate of wafers, and I was given the cup. The Bishop showed us where to stand, and then he got in line to receive Communion. Greasy's hands were shaking a little bit as she dipped each wafer into the cup and served all who came forward.
After the meal, the servers passed the cup around to finish the wine. This is not the tradition in our church at home, and a look of desperation flashed between us as we realized that the two of us were expected to empty this large chalice between us. After drinking what we could, we handed it back to the Bishop who thankfully helped us out.
After the blessing we walked back to our seats. The Bishop then launched into quite a lengthy lecture, or sermon #2, or reprimand. Greasy and Grubby looked at each other, a bit confused. We caught about half of the message, clearly a strong lesson on the priesthood of all believers.
Later that afternoon, Greasy and Grubby were relaxing when a lovely older woman approached them and asked, "Are you pastors?"
"No," we answered (more of a question than an answer).
"Do you know what happened today?" the woman asked.
She went on to explain that lay people had not served the Lord's Supper as we had done that morning. The long lesson from the Bishop was a scolding, directed to the pastors in the congregation who had not come forward to receive the meal. That day, she said, we had changed the way that things were done, and, as women, we had broken down barriers and stood up for all of the women in the church. We had no idea.
We have always asked our friends in El Salvador to use us in whatever way might be needed to bring help, change or justice to a situation. We believe that this is one of the ways in which God wants us to work together - to accompany one another in learning and in advocacy.
God had a plan which he revealed to the Bishop for growing the church in a new way, and in the time that has passed since that Communion day, lay leaders and church women have come to serve during worship in many new capacities.
Looking back, we realize that we are hugely blessed to have been present in a moment of change. At that moment, we were just nervously helping as we were asked to do. We had no idea.
God is awesome.