This is from the newsletter of St Andrew’s, Edwardsville, where the author, Fr Ralph McMichael is serving as interim rector.
The Diocese of Springfield is undergoing a transformation. It is a change that will not introduce anything new. Rather, it is the kind of change that happens when we get serious about our basic convictions and commitments. Provoked (an apt word here) and articulated by Bishop Martins, we are taking a hard look at the nature of the church, while recognizing that the culture in which we once ‘thrived’ is no longer there. Instead, we are in the midst of an ever-expanding secularity where all things Christian are ignored, caricatured, or derided. It is a mistake to long for the good old days when this was a ‘Christian’ society, and when there was a prevailing morality that we found amenable for our purposes. The fact is that we were in denial about how Christian things really were in the world and in our own lives. Anytime we look to the outside of the church for validation or elucidation we are on the path to distortion, and even to a disguised infidelity. And this brings us to asking about being a Eucharistic community.
The Bishop has begun to refer to all of the parishes and missions of this diocese as Eucharistic communities. This is how we are naming ourselves so that we can name the church and the world in ways that keep them both distinct and related. The church is a Eucharistic community and the world is not. While there are many types of communities, and while we often hear the positive call for ‘community building,’ only the church is a Eucharistic community because only the church celebrates the Eucharist. We are distinct from all other communities, or would-be communities, because we celebrate the Eucharist. This is our identity, and it is our vocation to bring the world into this community.
The Eucharistic community is a group of people who already belong to each other through “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism.” Hence, they come to gather to celebrate, share, proclaim, and receive the life of this one Body of Christ. Whatever else this group does or says, thinks or experiences, plans or hopes, is to be rooted in, and accountable to, this celebration of the Eucharist. That is, whenever we ponder a possible action, consider a plan for the future, or make any decision about our common life, we are to ask ourselves one question: Does this make Eucharistic sense? Is this a Eucharistic action? Now, in order to ask this question with the authenticity it requires, and to explore an appropriate answer, we need both awareness of, and formation in, this Eucharistic community. Throughout the rest of this year, each of my articles for The Shield will reflect on one aspect of being a Eucharistic community. Of course, we do not have to go through the whole year to know who we are. We can come together and celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday.