By Fr. Rick Putman Walk into the worship space of any traditional Episcopal Church and what do you
notice first? The Altar, of course, that holy table at which the Holy Eucharist is
celebrated and from which the Holy Communion is offered and shared.
The Altar is not only an architectural focal point, but more importantly it is the
sacramental center of our spiritual lives. What is a sacrament, you might ask? The
customary answer is: A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and
spiritual grace. This definition has served the church quite well for centuries, but to this
seeker, something is missing. And what might be the missing ingredient? Let’s name it
“mystery.” And so a new definition: A sacrament is a mysterious incarnation of divine
grace and holy love. (Yes, this does mean all of creation is a sacrament.)
The Episcopal Church recognizes all seven traditional liturgical sacraments: Eucharist,
Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Reconciliation, and Unction. To my
way of thinking, the Holy Eucharist is the sacramental fountain from which all other
sacraments flow. Why? Because it is table-centered. And why is table-centered so
important? Think about it, Jesus did a great deal of his preaching, teaching, healing,
caring, and loving at an inclusive table. One might say his entire ministry was (is)
figuratively and literally table-centered. And so, in imitation of Jesus, the table-centered
Holy Eucharist stands at the sacramental center of our lives.
We at The Abbey have been called to share Jesus’ radical table-centered hospitality; no one is excluded and all are invited. If you’re hungry, you’ll be fed. If you’re thirsty, we
have drink. If you’re lonely, your friends are waiting for you. Our table awaits you.
For those of us who worship at The Abbey, the table-centered Holy Eucharist is a sacramental expression of our ministry of radical hospitality. This table doesn’t belong
to The Abbey. It doesn’t belong to the Episcopal Church. It doesn’t belong to the priest. It is Jesus’ table, and everyone has a place at this table. If you’re hungry, and you come, you will be fed.
The Abbey is an Episcopal worshipping community in the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.