Presiding at this weekend's nuptial communion (aka eucharist aka, for some, the mass) was particularly powerful and poignant for me. Partly this was as, for the first time since their deaths, I used my parents’ communion set (chalice photo here - so wonderful in the context yet emotional on my heart - and partly as I was doing so as the nearest those present could have to a (Roman) Catholic priest. For it is part of the little miracle of my existence these days that I can sometimes be ‘a priest for those who have no priests’ or stand occasionally in the place of those who would like to exercise their priesthood fully (for all), but who are not allowed to by their Church...
All of this is made possible by the Uniting Church - thank God for our ‘crazy mob’ (as a dear friend and mentor names it/us) - whose ethos and regulations (as in the marriage ceremony today) I also do my very best to share and honour. For it is at the heart of the vocation of the UCA, I think, to be there for those whom others will not be there - and thereby to call other Churches into being the better selves they could be (part of the UCA’s vital core prophetic charism for the world). That is not an easy thing, but we do try, and it does so matter.
Almost every person receiving communion today was a Catholic and, as one young woman said to me afterwards ‘it was so good to receive communion from a female priest. Our Church will not allow it.’ ‘Nor my own native Church in this city’ I could add. And that is before we come to other things.
At times like this, I therefore recognise again the pain of denial that other priests in other spaces feel, and the brokenness of the universal Church. We must find healing together. Yet, so much more, I rejoice that (to use Uniting speak),’in his (their) own strange way’, Christ finds a means (if sometimes ‘unorthodox’). For healing has to start right now, and it begins with celebrating every loving relationship there is, and every crumb of kindness, compassion and imagination, even if it doesn’t fit the old mould - every opportunity to break bread and share wine that all may flourish.
As my parents grew weaker in their last years, even my father would struggle to hold the chalice (which is a very tough thing for any priest to experience) - so he knew so well that every time we can do it is precious and he would remind us of that. For eucharist, like grace, like sacramentality of marriage, is not to be withheld. It is to be a cup of blessing, for all - a gift for human flourishing not a meal for the ecclesiastically righteous. The only Church that matters to me is the one (which exists within and beyond every authentic denomination) into which all Christians must learn to grow.
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Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.