Monday, June 10, 2013

Altar Rail

My parish church (St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Berkeley) was sensibly designed so that the Sanctuary area in front of the stone altar, (no longer used as such) is raised about four feet above the level of the rows of pews. This enables the congregation to observe the action of the liturgy. When it is time to proceed towards the beautiful wooden altar to receive communion, there are stairs and a handrail on each side of the sanctuary. I would have no problem climbing up the stairs, but walking to the foot of the stairs would be difficult for me, even with a cane. The presider and the deacon or Eucharistic Minister always come down to the main level, and offer the bread and wine to the infirm. I began taking advantage of this some three years ago. There is one elderly and very infirm woman who prefers to have two supporters, one on each side, to assist her up to the rail. I wonder why this is important to her. I don't criticize her for her preference, of course. I do wonder if she thinks her struggles to the rail bring greater benefit. More likely, she is just doing what she has always done to receive communion.

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