Carolyn Arends ( www.CarolynArends.com) is
a recording artist, author and director of
education for Renovaré. Find more of these
columns at www.Faith Today.ca/Go WithGod.
Longago, when I wasa senior in the psychology program at Trinity Western Univer- sity, I took a course called
Physiology of Religion. I remember
how troubled my fellow students
and I (most of us Christians) became when we saw the link between
an individual’s reported religious
experiences and his physical state.
Was a sense of Divine Presence
really just the consequence of an
elevated heart rate and a flood of
stress hormones? Could the hearing of a “still, small voice” be explained away as the firing of overactive neurons?
I remember lying in my campus
apartment with my psychology
textbook on my chest, my heart,
ironically, racing as I thrust treasured spiritual experience into a
harsh, clinical light. And then, I
heard a voice. And though it was
exactly the sort of voice that could
be easily dismissed on physiological
and psychological grounds, I listened.
I wired you. I made your heart,
your brain, your nervous system and
your hormones. Why wouldn’t I involve
all of those things in my relationship
In that moment God was asking
me to be as earthy as He is – to reject a gnostic distrust of the material and see that of course His interactions with me would have
physical implications. Certainly,
tragically, mental illness could
produce delusions of a seemingly
religious nature. But it did not follow that genuine, healthy religious
experience would not be embodied.
In fact, if I was serious about
following an incarnated Saviour, I
did not have the option of leaving
my body out of it.
A couple of Sundays ago, sitting
in church preparing to take communion, I found myself thinking
about God’s earthiness once again.
Over the past few months, my
husband and I have begun attending
a new-to-us evangelical church. It’s
similar to many other churches
we’ve experienced in the past, but
with one key difference.
At this church we take communion every Sunday.
We’ve never been dissatisfied with
the monthly communion rhythm of
our previous congregations. So it
has surprised us how much we look
forward to the Lord’s Supper at
every service. We have, in fact, come
to feel like seven days is about as
long as we want to go without it.
This new, more frequent eucharistic pattern has made me increasingly grateful for the tangibility of
the communion elements. Of all
the things Jesus could have asked
us to do to help us remember Him,
eating and drinking are perhaps the
most concrete, ordinary, embodied,
and, well, elemental.
The Lord’s Table has always
been the place I most profoundly
celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice. But these
days I also approach it in increasing awe of His creativity, empathy
I am slowly coming to see that,
in eating the bread and drinking
the wine (or juice), I’m not only
doing something in remembrance
of Jesus, but He’s doing something
active and essential inside me –
heart, mind, soul and digestive
tract! The bread is nourishing every
part of me, and the communion cup
is offering a blood transfusion – a
weekly dose of vital, essential life.
I have no idea how this works. I
only know I need it.
A few weeks ago a guest speaker
came to our new church. His name
was Daniel Whitehead, and he’s the
executive director of Sanctuary
Ministries, an organization that
helps churches support mental
health recovery in their commun-
ities. Working through Psalm 130,
he explored some ways congrega-
tions can care for members con-
tending with depression who find
themselves in “the depths.”
His prescription was subversive-
ly simple. We can respect a cry from
the depths, we can wait with those
who suffer and we can listen.
We don’t rush another’s healing,
he cautioned us, but we can watch
for the morning together. We can
collectively offer signs of hope.
And, importantly, we can do tangible, visible things – like taking
“If a person can’t feel God’s grace
right now,” Daniel Whitehead said,
“let them take it, and hold it and
When he was done, we went,
nearly all of us, to the front, stretch-
ing out our hands to the folks
holding the bread and the juice.
“Eat and drink ye, all of it,” they
So we did.
And next week, we’ll do it again.
Of all the
asked us to
do to help us
An earthy God
Why I’ve come to love weekly communion
GO WITH GOD