Mountain Tennessee Outreach Project, where I spent so many happy and exhausted hours, has a special Friday night worship service each camp week. It's an emotional and spiritual high. We celebrate communion together and look back over a week that brought a bunch of strangers together and saw them become friends.
One of the duties of the staff is to procure communion elements sometime on Thursday or Friday of a camp week. Typically, King's Hawaiian or something from the Dutch Maid constitutes the bread. One particular Friday night, about five years ago, I was working as a Summer Intern, which meant I was kind of like an extension of the full-time staff and worked to help supervise the summer staff who were really running the camps. My job on Friday night was to kind of lurk in the background and try to be helpful in whatever way.
This staff had done a great job and had everything ready for Friday night worship and communion. The worship space was dazzling, the music was cued and ready, the worship packets were neatly set out on the benches with a small rock placed on top of each one in case a breeze should come up. They even had the forethought to place the communion elements out on the altar, covered neatly with a cloth.
We ate supper together: poppy seed chicken, green beans, and rolls. The rolls are one of the most beloved items on the oft-adored Mountain TOP weekly menu. Most folks think they are homemade. No sir. They are Sister Shubert's.
Of course, once the kitchen staff takes them out of the freezer and gets ready for supper, they daub them twice with a liberal brush of melted butter. That's what makes the out of this world. So much butter. Yum.
So anyway, we ate supper together and then moved into some times of group sharing before we came together for worship. As the sun was setting, the cicadas began that rhythmic strummimg of their wings, and the atmosphere was perfect. I breathed it all in. Then I saw the Program Manager running toward me out of the corner of my eye. She was frantic.
"The bread! Something came and got it!"
I followed her down to the worship center and saw what she meant. A small animal - I'm guessing a raccoon? - had jumped up on the altar, dragged the bread down onto the ground, and proceeded to gnaw some bites off before being scared away. The bread was a total loss. What to do?! The nearest grocery store was thirty minutes roundtrip. We had no backup loaf. I ran to the kitchen to see what we did have.
Since it was the end of the week, we had no sandwich bread or loaves. What did we have? Leftover Sister Shubert's. We couldn't just take a basket of dinner rolls out there, though. We had to disguise them. So we tore them up into bite-sized pieces. A conundrum, though: the pastor needs a full, unbroken loaf while celebrating communion. All we had to offer was an unbroken dinner roll.
As I sat in the back at that worship service, I quietly snickered when the pastor raised a tiny dinner roll above his head, blessed it and broke it. It was truly comical. No one else seemed to notice anything awry. Communion and worship went fine, and I was helping clean up afterward when I looked into the cup. There was a thick grease slick resting on top of the grape juice. It had to have been from all that butter. I felt so bad for whoever was last in line at communion. I'm sure they essentially dipped their roll bit in butter, put it in their mouth in the darkness, and wondered what the hell kind of rotten grape juice we had purchased! I don't think Jesus lived long enough to develop arterial placque or elevated triglycerides.