What to do during Distribution
It happens every Sunday.
Every Sunday, we celebrate Holy Communion. God's people gather around the Body and Blood of our Savior, either in tables or in continuous distribution. And consequently, every Sunday you have ten to fifteen minutes of sitting in your pew, not necessarily doing much of anything.
Let's take just a moment to notice how counter-cultural this is. Our society is constantly on the move. We're always trying to be more efficient, more effective. If someone has to stand in line for two minutes at the grocery store, they're probably checking their phone. The notion that there is fifteen minutes of down time more or less built right into the worship service is, well, kind of crazy—culturally speaking. And yet, there it is.
So don't misunderstand my intentions here. I'm not trying to give you ideas for "maximizing" the precious few moments during the Distribution, as if you had to squeeze still more productivity out of your day. This isn't about productivity, but piety.
And so take this brief list more in the spirit of suggestions for devotion—especially if you find yourself tempted to whip out your smart phone and start scrolling Facebook. But without further ado, here are 5 ideas for what to do during the Distribution of Holy Communion.
Let's start with the most obvious. We have Distribution hymns. Why not sing them? And to pull the curtain back a little bit, I do my best (working with our musicians) to choose especially sing-able hymns for during Distribution; of course, I want them all to be sing-able, but particularly then. You might even consider bringing your hymnal with you as you are coming up for Communion so you can sing while you await your turn.
Distribution is a time when many people will get caught up on the announcements, but this is also a great time to read over the Bible passages for the day. Read and reflect more deeply on the Sunday's Scriptures, or look ahead to the readings for the following Sunday. That pew Bible is there for your use!
These few moments are a natural time for prayer, and the hymnal itself is a great resource in this regard. On the inside front cover there are several Prayers for Worship—for thanksgiving after receiving the Sacrament, blessing on God's Word, etc. Then, further into the hymnal (pp. 305-318) there are dozens of other prayers. And of course you can simply pray from your heart, perhaps remembering your fellow parishioners before the Lord as you see them walk past.
The time during Distribution is also a great opportunity to reflect on the sermon or even meditate upon your week. Take a few moments just to jot some thoughts that stand out. You might also consider incorporating "visual faith" practices, whether that be coloring, drawing, or otherwise expressing your thoughts and prayers in pictures. In all these ways you can further "inwardly digest" the Word.
To circle back to where we started, there is something beautiful about a blissful few minutes where you don't have to do anything. Just sit and think, look at the symbolism in our architecture, listen to the music, simply be. Now, if you have kids with you in the pew, I get it—these might actually be the most anxiety-inducing minutes in the service. So if you don't have kids with you, may I make a suggestion? Maybe you occasionally say to that stressed mom, Can I take your little one (or ones) out for a moment? That way, you can each in your turn enjoy—even if just for a minute—that most rare of gifts in today's busy world.