Tag Archives: communion

LeAnn Gardner: The Church as Redeemed Hypocrites


Because Charleston is one of the top three destination wedding cities, I find myself officiating a good amount of weddings. If I’m really lucky, I get to engage in premarital coaching with those couples. The conversations include the “major” topics of marriage: sex, finances, communication, conflict, family relationships, and spirituality.

Most of the couples I marry tend to say the same thing: “We are spiritual, but not religious.” I have heard this phrase so much that I sigh when I hear it. When I ask couples what they mean, they usually say something along these lines: “Church people are hypocrites. We don’t think it’s necessary to be involved in church. I find God in nature and through art. I don’t need to go to church to feel connected.”

Admittedly, I have a bias. I’m a minister and I’m also a church member. I grew up in the church. I went to a Baptist high school, Baptist college and Baptist graduate school. My paternal grandfather was a Baptist minister. I have been “saturated” in church (and Baptist) culture. Growing up, I did not have extended family around and so church friends became family. I still attend church with people who kept me in the nursery and taught me Sunday School.

However, I also have also been hurt by the church two significant times, once when I was a young adult and the second as a young professional, which caused me to question my vocational calling and sense of self. I have seen the gross underbelly of God’s people (including me) who have fallen short of their callings. They, and I, have indeed been, and are currently engaging in hypocritical behaviors. I have seen churches harm people and even commit spiritual abuse. I recoil when I see churches endorse fear, hatred, discrimination and isolation.

But, yet. I keep waking up my children and taking them to church, to learn about God’s big love and lavish grace. I keep taking them to Wednesday night suppers, so that they learn that their family includes a church family, a chosen family with whom we break bread. They will learn that these people are not perfect, but that they are human and, if they are brave, these people, their people, live in the truth that they are forgiven and loved.

Last week at our Maundy Thursday service, we took our two boys to the nursery where they usually go during worship times. Our eldest who is 4, uncharacteristically had a hard time separating from us. We decided, spur of the moment, to take him to the service, a very solemn preparation for the most serious two days of the church calendar. He had never been to a service, so we were nervous. He did quite well.

At the end of the service, our pastors served communion via intinction, where the bread is dipped into the juice. I had never thought about this scenario- whether he would receive communion before he was baptized. I found myself walking up to the front with my active 4 year old and he pulled a crumb of bread from the plate the pastor offered. It wasn’t quite enough to “intinct,” so I dipped my bigger piece and put it in his mouth. I gave my son the elements, as a mama and a minister.*

There are many communities of people who love and care for each other well. Our neighborhood is one of them. I recently stumbled upon a post where someone was so sick she could not leave the house to get medicine. She posted humbly on Facebook that she really needed Ginger Ale. Within seconds, someone (whom she did not know) had volunteered to go to the store and deliver what was needed on her porch. Although not explicitly done in the name of Christ, this was a Christ like action.

But what makes the church different? My couples would say that they give and receive in the way my neighbor did and do not need a formal church in which to live out selfless and loving lives. I get that, I really do.

But the richness in the faith tradition for me is that when we participate in the ritual of the Eucharist, we acknowledge that we are indeed hypocrites, but that we are redeemable and are seeking redemption, both through Christ and the relationships he gives us in which to live out that redemption. I want my sons to grow up experiencing the mystery of taking bread and wine with people who are in our circle because of our desire to love and live Christlike lives, and because we are broken and in need of redemption.

So…to those couples, I say: churches are indeed full of hypocrites. There is no denial of brokenness when you walk up an aisle to receive the Sacraments of remembrance, grace and forgiveness. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, church people (on a good day), readily admit they need help.

Thanks be to God for the redeemed hypocrites with whom we share our lives.

*About 5 minutes after we sat down from taking Communion through intinction (bread dipped in a chalice), my son loud-whispered, “Mama, that stuff I drank from the Piston Cup was yucky!” There is nothing like your child reminding you of the everyday-ness of the elements, especially as related to Lighning McQueen.


LeAnn Gardner is a right brained social worker and minister married to a left brained engineer. Together they (sometimes) compose a full brain. She is mother to two boys, ages 3 1/2 and 1 year.



Sarah Boberg: Holy Hands, Holy Moments

These hands have held the hands of youth in prayer circles filled with laughter and tears. These hands have embraced grieving friends. These hands have held the hands of tiny children as we walked, skipped, and played. These hands have torn up old boards, and gotten a few splinters. These hands have planted new flowers in fresh soil. These hands have scraped and painted many walls. These hands have played basketball, dodgeball, and volleyball in school yards. These hands have served many plates of food. These hands have changed diapers. These hands have pointed and scolded. These hands have held new born life. These hands have been covered in dirt and sin. These hands have been washed new. These hands have been the hands of God.  

I wrote this simple reflection after a powerful Ash Wednesday service. I helped lead the service along with my husband and our music minister. I will have to begin by saying the Ash Wednesday service is one of my favorite during the year. Reflecting on our unworthiness made worthy in the sacrifice of Christ, ashes on the forehead, communion, beautiful music, humble believers – all of these things make my soul break and sing all at the same time.

Scarlet Communion 2

However, this year the service took on a whole new meaning. Scarlet, my 2 ½ year old daughter, attended the service with us. This is not her first Ash Wednesday service; as the kid of two ministers she had ashes on her head before she was even a year old. But something about being two makes all things different. (Can I get an Amen?!)

At the beginning of the service she was a bit restless and only wanted to sit with me. Well, I had to participate in the call to worship, so I just took her with me. As I read, she stood behind the podium and held my hand. Then we went to be seated and prayed and sang together. Then it was time for a scripture reading and once again, she went with me, stood behind the podium and held my hand.

During the time for the imposition of ashes she held my hand and we walked to the front. My husband–her dad, our pastor– imposed ashes on our foreheads. We went back to the pew and she started asking, “What’s that?”

Now my theologically trained mind wanted a better answer, but the mother in me simply said, “Jesus’ cross.” She continued to be fascinated by our crosses, wanting to see hers, moving her eyes to try to capture a glimpse of her cross above her eyesight.

Then she sat in my lap, completely still, completely in awe, as our church family continued to receive ashes on their foreheads. She watched in total amazement, almost as if she knew it was a Holy moment. She watched each stroke of her daddy’s fingers, dirty with ashes, as they put the sign of the cross on the foreheads of her friends and family.

Her restlessness returned through another song, prayer, and Brad’s homily. (I have already learned these restless moments bother me way more than they bother others.)

Then it was time for communion. I would be serving the cup. I asked Scarlet if she wanted to go sit with someone else, but no. In my mommy brain I quickly thought, “How is this going to work?”

But there was no time for thinking, only time for doing. So Scarlet and I went to the front and Brad handed me the cup.

Scarlet Communion 3

With one hand I held the cup of New Life and with the other I held the hand of my 2 ½ year old daughter.

She once again watched in amazement. She watched as I said to each person, “The blood of Christ shed for you.” She stood right there holding my hand the entire time.

In the beginning I didn’t fully understand the significance of the moment. But somewhere during that communion I realized the power of God through our hands.

Scarlet Communion 4

It is a blessing and honor to use my hands to celebrate the blood and body of Christ, shed and broken for the forgiveness of our sins. Each communion served has been a Holy moment and my broken and sinful hands have been used as Holy hands.

But this communion was extremely special. My husband held the bread, the body of Christ. I held the cup, the blood of Christ.   And I held the hand of my child, God’s child, who truly embodies the hope and love of Christ. This was a Holy moment with Holy hands, not just for me, not just for our church, but also for our family.

As we ventured home I could not get over the significance of holding Scarlet’s hand. She has been part of our ministry journey since her arrival. She is a blessing to our church and sometimes a far better minister than Brad and I combined. Her hugs and smiles are the light of Christ in a dark world.

On Ash Wednesday she was a minister. She stood beside me as I read God’s Word. She journeyed with each person as they reflected on their ashes. She helped served communion. Her hands were the hands of God.

Her hands reminded me that life and ministry are more than words, more than carefully planned worship services, and more than tasks to complete. Her hands reminded me we have the opportunity to be the hands of God. Her hands reminded me the importance of Holy moments and Holy hands. So whether changing a diaper or serving communion, these hands will never be the same.

I find that I cannot end this post without saying that this Holy moment would not be possible without a loving and accepting church family. Not all churches would allow or accept their ministers to be parents first. Our church has been extremely supportive of Brad and me as ministers, but even more supportive of our struggle to be parents and ministers together. I did not feel a single condemning eye as our child read scripture with me, served communion with us, or even when she climbed into Brad’s lap as he sat in his chair on the platform as our music minister sang. These people love God, love us, and love our child. This is truly a gift.

I am thankful to serve a church that allows for Holy moments for our entire family.


Rev. Sarah Boberg is the Minister of Youth and Children at First Baptist Church in Red Springs were she serves alongside her husband, Rev. Bradley Boberg. She is the mother of the beautiful and energetic Scarlet Carolyne and spends her “free” time working on her Ph.D. in Educational Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies from UNCG.