This Sunday I received a tremendous gift. Just before the 8am service, Paul Andrews, the second son of Nigel Andrews (rector of our church in the 1960s and 70s), walked into Trinity Church. We had a brief conversation before the service began, during which Paul offered me the gift of Nigel’s communion kit. He said that while Nigel enjoyed Sunday morning worship, it was the pastoral act of bringing communion to Emerson Hospital or other bedside locations that held the deepest meaning for him. His communion kit was his best tool for his best work. It got a lot of use.
On a personal note, you may know that when Nigel left Trinity in 1979, he went to Narragansett, RI where he was my childhood priest for nearly a decade. I was both inspired by him and intimidated by him. I quickly learned to call him “Father Andrews” and never “Nigel” even while the twinkle in his eye let me know he didn’t really take himself that seriously. But he did take the priesthood seriously.
When I arrived here at Trinity and discovered I was to learn to be a priest at altars and pulpits previously occupied by Father Andrews I was very moved. Nigel died in January 2006, seven years before my ordination into the priesthood, but Connie Andrews gifted me with a long phone conversation in the middle of a day of unpacking my theological library into Nick’s old office.
Over the years, I enjoyed conversations and emails with Nigel and Connie’s three sons (Pete, Paul, and John), particularly last year when Connie died and joined Nigel in our Communion of Saints.
Many priests have their own communion kits. I do not. While I’ve always wanted one, they are expensive and Trinity has a generous supply of kits for use by our LEVs and clergy, so I haven’t really needed one. I had no idea that I was just waiting for Nigel’s kit to come my way.
On Sunday night I opened the kit. A sticky-note in the cover said, “This contains consecrated elements and is to be kept in the Aumbrey ~NLA”. I left the note where it was, gently moved aside the yellowed linens, and looked down at the small silver chalice.
Immediately my heart swelled. The chalice was sticky with wine. I carefully looked in the bread tin; a single communion wafer remained. The covered wine vessel also was a quarter full of thick wine. The kit was last used over a decade ago, and the sacred messiness of it brought me to tears, as if I’d entered the catacomb of Christ. Body and Blood, blessed and real.
I am overcome by the ways in which the Holy Spirit connects us. On Sunday, at 8am, Nigel’s son, Paul, listened as I spoke of the youth who would be preaching at the 10am service; their message being that we ought to not just hear them, but listen to them and to one another lest we miss out on God speaking in our midst. Paul later wrote to me of the poignancy of our youth in the pulpit 45 years after his father’s ministry in this place, listening to kids at all cost. He told me his father would be thrilled by this snapshot of Trinity today.
Oh, how the Spirit connects us through time and word and Sacrament!
I will clean the communion kit. It will be a sacramental act of love and gratitude. I am blessed to have been given not just this sacred object, but the opportunity to prepare it for its new life among us once again.