by Bob Petrie
My Great-Grandmother was born in Germany in 1852. Her name was Marie Eha and at the age of twenty-three, she was living in St. Paul, Minnesota and about to have her first child. A boy, Frank Eha, born in 1876, the brother of my grandmother, Mabel Albertina Wilhelmina Eha, born 3 Oct 1888. The present state capital building had not been built at this time. The family attended Trinity German Lutheran Church in St. Paul’s downtown area, near where the capital building stands today. Both my grandmother and mother were baptized and confirmed in this church.
My mother was born in 1921 and remembers attending Sunday worship services given there in both English and German. In the 1950s the state of Minnesota cleared all the older buildings around the where the new capital stood and tore down the “Old” Trinity Church building. A new Trinity Church was built a few blocks to the west, on Rice Street, within sight of the new capital building. I was baptized and confirmed in this new church. I was an observer of the Sacrament of Communion for many years, but not a participant; To take communion you had to be a confirmed member of the church.
This was a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran Church, and as was the convention of the day in many churches, communion was only given on one Sunday of each month. I always thought it must be that way so it would be a more meaningful experience than if it had been celebrated more often. We always received the bread and wine as we knelt at the rail near the altar, served only by the pastor. First the wafer placed on your tongue and then the wine from a common cup. When you returned to your pew, the padded swing down kneeling rails were lowered and each person who had received communion would kneel and take time to silently say their own prayer. I remember it as a very solemn and serious time.
Most of the congregation was made up of older people; relatives of members from years gone by. The young families all moved out to the suburbs and found other churches to attend. My confirmation class had eight members in 1960. My younger sister continued to attend the same church and her daughter was the last one ever to be confirmed at Trinity Church, in her class of one in 2002. The congregation dwindled to a very few and merged with a younger church. One by one the older faithful found it was time to meet up with the Lord, and now they Commune with Him in Eternity.
During Lent 2011, we are encouraging the St. Philip the Deacon community to reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Communion — recalling early memories, describing memorable celebrations of Communion, or reflecting on how Communion informs daily life. This post is part of that series. We invite your reflections about Communion, as well. If you would like to submit something for this series, please send it to Pastor Cheryl Mathison at firstname.lastname@example.org.