By: Maggie Leonard
At Mercy, our communion table is a rickety four-legged square, made of rough wood—a regular splinter-hazard, with paint and candle wax splattered upon it. It is what might be called ‘well-loved’ or ‘shabby chic’ or ‘better off in the dumpster.’ When it is bumped, it gently sways for a breath, but verily reorients itself more or less squarely on its wobbly legs. It is the centerpiece of our humble church space, the basement sanctuary in which we spend most of our time together as a community.
On Sunday mornings it is usually covered with cloth, hand-picked flowers, a plate of bread, a cup, and a pitcher. During the week, we decorate it for our hour of prayer with more simple cloth, a candle or two, and sometimes a cross. Really, though, our table is used so much more than just during those few hours of official worship. In a very concrete way, this sacred space is crucial to the daily rhythms of our lives—and not just spatially. It cradles un-plated bagels that are too hot to hold. Coffee cups, Bibles, and magazines are artfully strewn across it’s top. Backpacks are unpacked and repacked on its surface. Folks gather around it as we make sign-up lists for food or clothes. It is the heart of our space.
It is also the spot were we do administrative work for the community—like renewing food stamp certifications, finding directions to a social service agency, searching the online directory of inmates at the local jail for one of our own, writing a letter which will allow someone to receive healthcare, or editing our latest publication. Surrounded by the vitality of the community—the laughing, musing, chopping, and snoring of congregants—and looked upon by Jesus himself, who hangs from our wall on the cross, work gets done.
Our sanctuary is just that—a sanctuary, a safe place, a shelter from the cold and from accusing eyes, a space in which we can practice living fully and together, a haven of comfort, a place where needs are met. Our table is at the center of it all.