"I Feel Like I've Been to Church"

Approximately once each month I serve as eucharistic minister to residents at an inpatient treatment center for young women who have eating disorders. Today was one of those visits. And it started off badly.

When I got to church, I realized that I didn't have the worship leaflets with me. I could visualize exactly where they were. On the desk downstairs, with other papers I'd carried in from the car. I decided that even though it would make me a little bit late, I would come home after church and pick them up.

My vision betrayed me. The leaflets were not where I thought. I set on my way nonethelss. I was scheduled to bring communion to four young women and based on past experience, I believed three would show up. We could share.

I arrived ten minutes late to find three young women waiting for me. Another, wearing headphones and holding a book, was sitting cross-legged on the chair. I apologized for being late, and one of the women said that there were two more who had been interested; she offered to go off and get them. The girl with the headphones took them off and asked if "the meeting" was starting and when I explained what I was there for, she said, "I don't go to church. Can I stay here anyway?" I assured her that she could and then she offered, "I haven't been to church since my mom died." I mentioned to her that often when one is grieving, church can be very difficult. I told her she could either join us or not, as she preferred. "How long has it been," I asked her as we waited. "Since 2000. I was ten."

The other two girls came in then, and being so very short of leaflets, I decided to improvise a bit, telling them I would read the prayer of confession for everyone, and they could say "Amen." Most of them knew the other responses. A girl with the beautiful red hair agreed to follow me with the wine. As we began our little service, I noted that the headphones girl had taken them off and put her things on the floor. I heard her say, "Amen." Megan and I went around the circle with the bread and wine; the Roman Catholic girl asked for a blessing, and the girl without the headphones was clearly hearing something she needed more than what they had been bringing her. She received the bread and the wine.

When we were finished, although "the meeting" was scheduled to begin in the room very soon, the girls were in no hurry to leave. "Thank you so much for coming." "That was wonderful." "I feel like I've been to church," came from the young women who had not been in eight years. "Are you okay about?" I asked her. She affirmed that she was.

She really was.


Karen said…

I am so blessed by your ministry to those young women. Thanks for sharing this story.

Tanya said…
Most of the people we meet in the world (at least I meet in Japan) will never go to church in their lives. I guess we have to bring the church to them.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing this on your blog! I'm truly thankful for you and how God works through you with these special women. I'll be in touch! Blessings, Angela H.
Perry said…
What a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing this with us.