transformed by font & table: the sacramental life of the pastor

This is the story of one pastor’s sacramental life. It is the testimony of the thirty-five year journey of one called and ordained to preside at the font and table. To my surprise it tells of the ways in which hosting the congregation’s celebration of the sacraments became central to my ministry and my life. 

It is a surprise to discover that my sacramental life as a minister in the United Church of Canada transformed my life. At the time of my ordination I felt ill at ease when presiding at services of Baptism and Holy Communion. Raised in a minister’s family I had regularly witnessed baptisms and participated in the Lord’s Supper. Baptisms were always of infants. Baptism was experienced and spoken of as a birth ritual. Communion was celebrated quarterly. My confirmation as a teen-ager marked my inclusion in the community that gathered to share the bread and wine. It meant that by the time of my ordination I had been to the table in my home congregation for just over a decade – perhaps on fifty occasions.

It is little wonder then that, at the age of twenty-six, when I began to preside at the font and table I felt ill at ease. Outwardly I tried to project confidence but inwardly I felt uncertain, uncomfortable, awkward. The sacraments were not in my bones. Nor were they in the bones of the congregations I served. It was hard to talk about this. After all, I was an ordained minister, set apart to preside at the sacraments. Of all people I should be at home at the font and table. Now, at the age of sixty-one, there are few places I feel more at home than when presiding at the font and table. Now the sacraments have become part of me, they are in my bones. They have become the interpretative centre of my preaching and teaching, of my ministry and of my life. How did this come to be?