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This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.

Spiritual Communion: A Bigger Blessing Than We Realise?

Reflections following the Cardinal's address

A busy Sunday morning at our Anglican church, and I am approached by the churchwarden. "Will you 'do the chalice' this morning, Bev? Sarah's doing it too." "Of course," I reply, and head into church. It is a lively service and we're involved in other aspects too. My husband, Paul, and I are organising printed sweatshirts for the church and need to announce our progress. Paul is leading the intercessions, which we wrote together during the week. At the end of the service all the parents of young children will help us move the toys to another room where the creche (which Paul and I also organise) for Mass is held. We're a team and there is a great feeling of togetherness.

We reach the Agnus Dei and as the congregation struggles with a new setting of 'Lamb of God' Sarah and I transfer our small children to their dads and approach the altar. Administering the chalice is something I consider to be a great privilege, and I'm grateful to be one of eight people in our church with a Bishop's licence to do it. The opportunity to pray for each person, joining their 'Amen' as they respond to the offer of 'The Blood of Christ', is very special. I try to use their names, and make a note when I don't know a name to find it out. As Sarah and I get to the last communicants, we see our husbands and children side by side. Sarah approaches John, her husband, and offers him the cup. As he drinks, I think how special a bond they have in sharing communion in that way. I thank God for that blessing for my very dear friends. Then I walk straight past Paul. As a Roman Catholic he is not allowed to accept the cup that I am offering. That hurts. It cuts deep. We replace the chalices on the altar and return to our seats.

I could stop here. This is an account of the regular experience of many interchurch couples. But, you see, Paul and I are not the only people in church, just the only interchurch couple.

Sarah and John are not the only Anglican couple, but they're not typical either. As I reflect after communion, I consider the other members of the eucharistic ministry team. Some are single, some are married, but most sit alone in church. I think of Holly. I've never seen her husband. She doesn't even get to walk past him with the chalice. How does she feel, I wonder? Is her pain as great as mine? I think of Caroline. I know she would love to share with her non-churchgoing husband, that she misses him in church on a Sunday. It hurts. It cuts deep.

This Sunday morning I've shared with Paul in prayer and music, in the peace and in the blessing, in caring for our daughters and in meeting our friends. I know that later this morning Paul will receive communion at Mass, part of the eternal communion of the whole body of Christ to which we both belong, and I shall be there with him and shall receive a blessing, as he did at the Anglican eucharist. I remember the words of Cardinal Hume to interchurch families at Heythrop the day before: "You share in spiritual communion." Yes, we do, and I thank God for that.

So many others in my church don't share that joy, and that hope of heaven together. It makes me think that the Cardinal is right. I don't want to belittle the desire to share in the eucharist, it's desperately important. But it is our spiritual communion that takes precedence, our partnership as Christians. This, I suspect, is part of the gift interchurch couples bring to the churches, one of the reasons why our marriages defy the divorce statistics. We are truly blessed.

Beverley Hollins 

This article was published in the Summer 1997 issue of The Journal.



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