Yesterday I had the joy of being part of something special – the Collation of the Canon Pastor at Coventry Cathedral. There are a number of very personal reasons why the day was somewhere between fabulous and almost unbearably special for me, but there is something specific I wanted to think about here.
Two of the joys I had were meeting various tweeps who dutifully reeled off their twitter handles and names to me just before the service , and administering the chalice at Communion. My instruction for the service was “follow Margaret”, a wonderful Reader and my fellow chalice assistant, who looked after me beautifully. So I did. Where she went, I went. When she turned a right angle, I followed suit. And so it was that I landed at the side of an important looking gentleman in a very lovely gold Cope (kind of cloak), with him handing out wafers, and me and Margaret then handing our respective chalices to people for them to receive wine.
As it happened, many tweeps ended up receiving wine from me. And so it was I was able to offer them the chalice and use their name – “Kathryn, Simon, Ruth, Rachel etc etc etc, the blood of Christ keep you in eternal life”. It is a wonderful privilege to administer communion by name. I don’t do it in our main Sunday service, because I can’t do it for everyone – there are those whose names have not yet stuck, there are visitors….and it would be horrid for someone to be left out. But when I know everyone’s name, for example at our quiet Thursday morning service, I use it. And I figured that in a Cathedral, no-one would expect me to know everyone’s name, so just addressing those I knew would probably be OK.
Because it is my custom to use names where I can, I forget that for most people, it isn’t normal to receive communion by name. I forget how special it felt the first time someone used my name as they handed me bread or wine. I shouldn’t have been surprised by people commenting afterwards, but I was.
Names are powerful. Names are bound up in our identity. When asked that most personal of questions, “Who are you?” we answer with our name. And God knows our names….Isaiah 43
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.”