Last year, I tacked a communion onto the end of the non eucharistic Christmas Day family service. It was really for my benefit, that year I wasn’t on the rota to do a midnight mass, I had a shocking cold so did the sensible thing and stayed at home so that I would have the energy for the morning service. It didn’t dawn on me that I would miss out on communion until I got there. To my relief two people in the congregation said they wanted communion and stayed behind at the end of the service. That day I was truly blessed by two strangers who having received communion then asked me if they could pray for me and it was lovely. Two complete strangers had recognised how exhausted I was and then prayed in the most beautiful way making me realise that I was indeed a child of God. Before I could thank them they had disappeared. It was one of those Emmaus moments.
This year at midnight mass I must have found the right words to invite people who didn’t want to receive communion to come up to the rail for a blessing. usually it surprises me just how many stay firmly rooted at the pew and it saddens me because for once I do have something that I can give people. This year, there was a church full of visitors and I think I must have laid hands on about a quarter of the people who came up to the rail including one elderly gentleman. At the end of the service as I stood at the door he shook my hand and said that in his 88 years of church going he had never been to a service with a lady vicar. “Oh, ” I said “and did it feel OK?” Lovely he says. Lovely! Just the words I needed. I refuse to feel despondent now about the few who rang the churchwarden to check I wasn’t doing midnight and then excluded themselves from God’s love because I am the wrong type of priest.
I’ll let the strangers bless me.