Reflections | November 21, 2018

Election day love feast

Manassas Church of the Brethren feetwashing
Photo by Susan Dommer

As followers of Jesus Christ, our focus is neither to the right nor to the left. Rather, it is centered on Jesus Christ alone.

Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, the Church of the Brethren’s Youth and Young Adult Ministries invited congregations to host an election day love feast. The idea started two years ago, recognizing that the U.S. has become polarized around politics. Some of us vote for Republicans, some for Democrats, some for third-party candidates, and some of us do not vote. Nevertheless, we can find unity in Christ through feetwashing, sharing a meal, and communion.

The Manassas Church of the Brethren is no different than our denomination or our country. Through surveys and studies conducted in our congregation, we know that our political and theological beliefs fall all along the spectrum. Some of us are more conservative and some more liberal, and yet we have always remained true to our vision statement that we are a community of care, where relationships matter and Christian discipleship counts. Being in community together, finding unity even among our differences, and building up our relationships with one another has always been more important than partisanship.

In response to these dynamics and because of who we are as a church, the Manassas Church of the Brethren decided to host a love feast the day after the elections at our regular Wednesday evening Church Activity Night. Anyone who wanted to be grounded once more into the depths of their faith was invited to participate; there were stations set up for those interested.

For some in our congregation this untraditional love feast was uncomfortable. It felt as though we were politicizing this sacred ordinance. We knew that this was a break from traditions and not the typical way that we celebrate love feast. It wasn’t World Communion Sunday or Maundy Thursday, after all. There was no sop and we didn’t sing any hymns. It was just a basin and a towel and the bread and the cup set up to be served.

We named how uncomfortable it was for many to share in love feast on a night that was outside of our standard practice, and we affirmed that sometimes following Jesus does take us out of our comfort zone. The elements were there, and those who gathered were invited to participate, or not, according to their spiritual need and comfort level.

Our meal that evening included a local Lutheran pastor, Rev. Connie Thomson, and her two young daughters. I was able to wash her feet as well as her daughter’s feet. Afterwards, she posted on Facebook, “I was humbled to have my feet washed by my friend Pastor Mandy, and to witness as she washed my kids’ feet for the first time, liturgically anyway.”

The following day, one of our deacons, Stephanie Polzin, offered these reflections:

“For me, the opportunity to share communion around the election was very meaningful, perhaps some of the most meaningful of my history of participating in communion. I still have faith in democracy and in my fellow citizens and our potential to be a loving and helpful nation to those around us.

From my perspective, many of the election results are disappointing and a challenge to my faith in the USA, and this communion is an opportunity to remind me of who I am and whose I am. It is an opportunity to remember that there is work for me and my fellow Christians to do no matter what the world around me says. It’s also an opportunity to remind myself that whatever one’s political bent, he or she is my brother or sister in Christ. I find it a positive, healing experience and am grateful.”

We know that the simple act of offering love feast near the elections is not going to solve the issues surrounding our divisiveness. The symbolic act of washing feet needs to lead us into living a life of humble service every day. Eating the bread and drinking the cup needs to remind us every day of the amazing love of Jesus, the love that binds us all together.

Mandy North is the senior pastor at Manassas Church of the Brethren, where Stephanie Polzin serves as a deacon.