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.