I’m drinking from the cup everyone sipped from. It’s real wine. It burns going down. I wipe my face with my sleeve. The priest smiles.

Fairhope, Alabama—a secluded chapel in the woods. There’s a grand picture window behind the pulpit. Through it, I see live oaks hanging over the windy waters of Weeks Bay.

I am standing in a single-file line of Episcopalians about to take Communion.

I don’t know these people. They wear large smiles on their faces, and they’re singing. They’ve either lost their cotton-picking minds, or I have.

In line ahead of me: the salt of the earth. Adults. Teenagers. Children. The elderly.

I meet two older women who were married a few months ago. A retired commercial fisherman who smells like the night before. Three attorneys, a few construction workers, a banker. A woman with breast cancer.

The bishop is white-haired, wearing a robe. He stands barefoot at the altar. He smiles at an elderly woman, then hands her what looks like a Ritz cracker.

The woman eats, and sips from a cup the size of a fishbowl Margarita. People embrace her. Everyone singing, everyone swaying back and forth.

These people might truly be nuts.

It’s my turn at bat.

The bishop hands me a cracker. “The Body of Christ,” he says.

I haven’t taken communion in years. Besides, my people do things different. We call it the Lord’s Supper—though it’s no supper. We have Tic Tacs and shot glasses of Southern-Baptist-approved Welch’s.

I’m drinking from the cup everyone sipped from. It’s real wine. It burns going down. I wipe my face with my sleeve. The priest smiles.

I don’t feel any different.

Then. I am side-tackled by an old woman. She kisses my forehead. I’ve never met her. She has cropped hair and wears cowboy boots. She says she loves me.

Another man slaps my shoulder. He calls me “brother.” A teenage girl shakes my hand and prays for me.

And I’m feeling something—whether I want to or not. It’s a warm sensation. Maybe it’s the wine.

Or, maybe I’m thinking about the Sundays of my youth. The framed pictures of a shepherd on the church walls of my childhood.

Maybe I’m thinking about ladies who sent poundcakes home with me after potlucks. Or the Kenyan missionaries who taught us to say “I love you” in Swahili.

I’m thinking about the Albertsons—the family of eleven, who wore the same ratty clothes every Sunday. I remember the groceries my father delivered to that family on Tuesday afternoons.

And my father’s funeral. What a service that was. I’m thinking about how hard finances got after he died. I’m remembering the casseroles folks graced our porch with on Tuesday afternoons.

I’m thinking about the clapboard chapel I married in. The leather-bound book Granny read. The miracles I begged heaven for when Mother was sick.

And I feel it.

It’s overwhelming. I think this must be what all the fuss is about.

I’m here. With these people. Black, white, Mexican, Jew, gay, Samaritan, and purple-haired hipster. Young, elderly, Baptist, Methodist, beer-drinker, teetotaller, whore, tax-collector, meth addict, and Friends of Bill. Attorneys, veterans, preachers, divorcees, newlyweds, English majors, high-school dropouts, and reprobate redheaded writers.

We are all drinking from the same cup.

Forgive me, Lord, I was wrong. These people aren’t nuts.

They are my family.

30 comments

  1. Connie - October 2, 2017 3:03 pm

    Truly a blessing to read your words this morning. The world is chaos, but peace can be found, and I have to believe that love will win. God bless you.

    Reply
  2. John - October 2, 2017 3:07 pm

    What a better place for clarity than in a church!

    Reply
  3. gary - October 2, 2017 3:12 pm

    Well Sean, I hope someday you and I can sit down together and talk. We’d have much to talk about. Love your daily gifts! My heart is grateful for you. gary

    Reply
  4. Martha Fondren - October 2, 2017 3:14 pm

    Yep, we are family. Every single one of us.

    Reply
  5. Barbara Hood - October 2, 2017 3:15 pm

    If I didn’t know better I’d think we grew up together! I can relate to your writings. Your word them so well, I’m jealous! Thank you, glad to know I’m in good company.

    Reply
  6. Bob Hubbard - October 2, 2017 3:19 pm

    And all God’s children could only say AMEN and amen and amen and amen…

    Reply
    • Noah Funderburg - October 2, 2017 6:10 pm

      Agreed.

      Reply
  7. Sara Shepherd - October 2, 2017 3:19 pm

    If only, we could all love each other regardless of backgrounds, maybe just maybe, the events of today in Las Vegas would not have happened. Prayers for our country, our people and, especially today, the victims and their families and the citizens of Las Vegas.

    Reply
  8. Rita Loveday - October 2, 2017 3:42 pm

    World Communion Sunday. A day when all we Christians have communion in all parts of the world. Each of us different from everyone else and some of those differences huge. But, we all declare Jesus as our Savior and we are one, if only for a moment. What a thought….. Your writing are so thought provoking. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. Jack Quanstrum - October 2, 2017 4:02 pm

    Praise the Lord. Hallelujah. Amen! Shalom!

    Reply
  10. NovaLee - October 2, 2017 4:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. Today, of all days, this came to offer hope when I needed it desperately. 💙

    Reply
  11. Bobbie - October 2, 2017 5:22 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  12. Hayley Tomlinson - October 2, 2017 5:29 pm

    You just made me cry. These are my family, too.

    Reply
  13. Kathy - October 2, 2017 5:32 pm

    Oh my, my, didn’t know we were related!!!! Haa!!! K

    Reply
  14. Shirley Northington (Skelton) - October 2, 2017 5:35 pm

    Thank you, and Amen. Glad We’re family.

    Reply
  15. lonnielacy - October 2, 2017 5:50 pm

    From an Episcopal priest born, raised, and serving in the Deep South, thank you. Familiar and true.

    Reply
  16. Noah Funderburg - October 2, 2017 6:13 pm

    Sean, I greatly enjoy your daily blog posts. As someone who lives in Fairhope now, after 40 years in Tuscaloosa, I only wish I had been a part of that communion celebration. I wish more people could see others and realize that we are all members of the Body of Christ, and when someone calls you brother or sister, it is not just a word, but a reality in God’s eyes, and hopefully someday in all human eyes too. We should hook you up to come speak at the Page and Palette sometime. If you are interested, I would be happy to try to help facilitate that.

    Reply
    • Sandi in FL - October 2, 2017 7:29 pm

      Noah, may I suggest that you contact Sean via e-mail by going to his website. That way he will be sure to read it. For your sake I hope he does go speak at the Page and Palette some day. What a treat that would be!

      Reply
    • Augusta Jones - October 3, 2017 1:00 am

      I would be there.I live in Fairhope too

      Reply
  17. Peter Wong+ - October 2, 2017 6:50 pm

    I do believe you understand communion perfectly well, my friend. Peace be with you and thanks for sharing the weekend with us.

    Reply
  18. Margaret Platt - October 2, 2017 7:16 pm

    Thank you for your lovely words today. They filled me with love and made me cry just to imagine the peace and joy in that wonderful chapel. I always feel the closeness of the Lord when receiving Communion in any denomination where the people want to adore God and love each other. Please, God, let that happen more often to all of us.

    Reply
  19. Lisa - October 2, 2017 7:35 pm

    Family. Yes.

    Reply
  20. Sara Hester - October 2, 2017 10:07 pm

    That was great. However, the Baptist version is Chiclets not Tic-Tacs. May we each find our place at God’s table and know that we are home.

    Reply
  21. Erika Brady - October 2, 2017 10:10 pm

    That was my late mom’s church. She loved it dearly. Thanks for a happy reminder of the peace she found there.

    Reply
  22. Anne Trawick - October 2, 2017 11:12 pm

    Best ever.

    Reply
  23. Katherine - October 3, 2017 3:22 am

    What pictures you draw with your words. I have been there. Not the Episcopal church in Fairhope, but another in a small town in Alabama. I wish I could step back in time and view with my more seasoned eyes. There is beauty all around us when we are open to it, isn’t there?

    Reply
  24. John Kendall - October 6, 2017 2:18 pm

    You got the message we Episcopalians get every Sunday. Thank you for your words that God put in your heart that day…..Peace brother and blessings

    Reply
  25. Caroline - October 6, 2017 6:26 pm

    I grew up Catholic (though now I am a non-believer). The first time I attended an Episcopalian service I had an equally moving experience. It was a beautiful old church off Government St. in midtown Mobile. I decided to stop in after reading the head pastor’s blog. I discovered that the co-pastor used to be a nurse like me. She is married to a woman and they have a family. She sang a beautifully haunting prayer to consecrate the bread and wine for communion. The head pastor stood up and said all are welcome to share in communion with us regardless of creed or sexual orientation. I held back tears trying to burst from my eyes. It was the most inclusive welcoming church I’ve ever been to. The kind of place I’d go to just to be apart of the community despite being a non-believer. The kind of place that would welcome me without trying to change that part of me.

    Reply
  26. Becky Carver - October 9, 2017 8:55 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for spending BayLights weekend with our family!! You were as much a blessing to us as we were to you! ❤️

    Reply
  27. Hank Vest - October 9, 2017 9:36 pm

    What a vivid image of what Jesus wants for us.

    Reply

Leave a Reply