Katerina Friesen lives in Fresno, California on traditional Yokuts land, and works with incarcerated people to create healing spaces through the Insight Garden Program. She pastors Wild Church, a community seeking to reconnect with God and all creation in their watershed.
Over the past year, I have been nurturing an ecclesial experiment in Fresno, California called Wild Church. We meet outdoors once a month, usually on the banks of the San Joaquin River under a wide oak tree marked with graffiti in an area often littered with beer cans and trash. About 15-20 people join our worship, and our gatherings include song, prayer, Scripture reading, group reflection, and a time for contemplative wandering before ending with communion.
We praise God together with the river, the salmon making their way upstream despite a series of dams, and the fertile earth beneath us; we also seek to pay attention to the pains of creation in lament: rising summer temperatures, one in four children who suffer from asthma from polluted Central Valley air, fewer and fewer insects and birds, and forests burning in fires not far from us.
I share the following communion liturgy we’ve been developing as an invitation to the Body of Christ to widen our table of communion to include the body of earth. Communion invites us not only to consider who we worship in relation to God, but with whom we worship. If we take the early Christian hymn in Colossians 1 seriously, our sense of interconnection with a redeemed creation expands; we encounter a reconciling Christ whose salvation is not only for fallen humans, but for the whole cosmos! In Christ who is our peace, we are bold enough to proclaim reconciliation with all things, and to seek to live out reconciliation in our day-to-day lives. Reconciliation with, in and through the Christ who “holds all things together” (Colossians 1:17) broadens our sense of kinship with all life.
We discover that we are created beings who are not separate, but part of the living, breathing, buzzing, creation who worships God in myriad ways, from the mountains that burst into song, to the trees who clap their hands in joy (Isaiah 55:12; Psalm 148).
Our Wild Church time of Eucharist especially shapes us to widen our communion table to include non-human creation.
We draw the language for this communion liturgy from Luke 22:18-20, Colossians 1:15-22 and 1 Corinthians 5:16-18, and from the Salal + Cedar Wild Church Community’s Eucharistic liturgy.
Note: if possible, homemade bread and locally grown grapes or homemade grape juice can be used to highlight our connection to this land.
Wild Church Communion Liturgy
Christ, through whom all things were made, hosts us at this meal. Once he compared his body to bread and his blood to wine, and gave us these elements to remember his life, death and resurrection. Jesus went to the greatest lengths of love in life and on the cross to reconcile all things back to God, and to renew us and the whole world as a New Creation!
Together with Chinook Salmon and Valley Oak, with silty soil and the San Joaquin River, we praise You and bless You for these gifts, holy and gracious God, source of life abundant!
On the night before he died, Jesus took bread, food of the poor, the work of field and hearth. He gave thanks, broke it and shared it with his friends saying, “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you, do this to remember me.” Then he took the cup, fruit of the land, gave thanks and gave it to his friends saying, “This is my blood, which is shed for you. When you do this, do it in memory of me.”
Creator, send your Spirit on these gifts so that we know Jesus in them and are gathered together with everyone who shares this sacred meal of justice, reconciliation and New Creation.
As a symbol of our reconciliation with God and all creation in Christ – in whom all things were created and in whom all things hold together – we offer some of our communion feast back to the land and waters of this place (offer a piece of bread). In recognition of the ways the body of earth is broken by human sin and injustice, we pour out some of the cup representing Christ’s blood on the soil of this place (pour out some of the cup).
Whenever we eat this, we remember and embody the New Creation through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection – and God sends us from here in love to be part of healing the world.
Beloved: This is the body and blood of Christ, broken and shed so all may be whole. (Break bread and pass to first person; leader holds the cup)
If you wish, dip this bread into the grape juice and eat, and then pass the plate to the next person with the words “The body of Christ, broken for you and all creation.” We will be passing around the cup with the words, “The blood of Christ, shed for you and all creation.”
Feel free to use this time of silence to reflect on God’s love for all creation, or simply rest in the being of God.
This post is part of Mennonite Church USA’s Climate Justice: Learn, Pray, Join initiative.
We invite you to:
Pray for those who are most vulnerable among us and who are most impacted by climate change, including those who have already been displaced.
Pray for the waters, the plants, all living creatures and the earth with gratitude, that we may recognize their sacredness and participate in their restoration.
Pray that we will find the motivation to respond to climate change in our own lives, congregations and communities.
Pray for local, community and business leaders to help make communities healthier and greener while centering those who are vulnerable. Pray that our political leaders and world leaders would become more active in reducing carbon emissions worldwide.
Pray for the youth and future generations, who will live with the growing consequences of climate change.
Find worship resources, a webinar, and ways to get involved in advocating for climate justice at mennoniteusa.org/climatejustice.