Kriss: Sweet communion

Nov 21, 2016 by

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At 3 a.m. Nov. 9, my phone flashed updates so vigorously it woke me up. I rolled over to verify what I had expected from the election news coverage before going to sleep. Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. We are on the path toward “making America great again.”

Stephen Kriss


The night before, I took communion at Doyles­town Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania and pledged allegiance to the kingdom of God through the words of Mennonite leaders Nelson Kraybill and June Alliman Yoder:

“I pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ, and to God’s kingdom for which he died — one Spirit-led people the world over, indivisible, with love and justice for all.”

The Doylestown church community is nearly 300 years old. The meetinghouse’s imprint on the lot is smaller than its cemetery and surrounded by encroaching suburbia in what has become some of the priciest land in Bucks County, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia.

Mennonites have been here through a revolution, a civil war, a transition from German to English and now into communities made up of a mixture of cultures and languages.

We’ll need to find our way through the current political tumultuousness, too.

Around the communion table, we shared bread and juice, serving one another in a litany with the words “sister” and “brother.” It felt old-school and intimate.

I watched one couple in their 90s serve one another. It was holy and beautiful. It’s the kind of thing Paul says we should focus our thinking on: the lovely, the beautiful, the true.

We prayed together. We confessed our fears and our judgmentalism. We sang “We Are One in the Spirit.” We then went home not having discussed our ballots, but having renewed our commitments to Christ regardless of the outcome of the election.

I don’t know who celebrated the outcome on the morning of Nov. 9 while I was regrouping to begin the work of considering faithful leadership under a different regime while responding to those within the communities I work alongside who felt angry, confused and fearful.

Anabaptists have often been dissonant with the regime of the day. That is nothing new. Our voices have been honed by living on the margins rather than the center.

Often when we’ve drifted toward a societal center, our distinct Christian witness has been dulled. Other times we’ve negotiated a quietism that’s allowed us to survive societal tensions that has been inadequate when considering Jesus’ invitation to speak and share the good news.

We have also been migrants and refugees when necessary, setting our sights on new places where our faith and communities might flourish. This kind of scattering and migrating was a hallmark of the early church in times of persecution and political instability. This may or may not be such a time, but the seriousness of this possibility is felt more by recent immigrants than by anyone else at the moment.

By the time you read this article, written the day after the U.S. elections, the realities will have begun to emerge more clearly. We’ll have a bit more sleep and possibly a bit more sanity. And, as we have for more than 300 years in this land as Anabaptist Christians, we’ll continue finding our way, holding onto enduring faith and hope and the greatest thing of all: love.

Stephen Kriss is a teacher, writer, pastor and follower of Jesus living in Philadelphia.

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