(body and) bloodlines

Yesterday, I posted a few of the many regional terms I’ve learned throughout this trip. I should have added my own name, Ben, to that list. Earlier today, somebody again thought I said, “Bill,” which as I noted long ago is a regional difference I’ve faced all year. You can read that post if you want to; it’s called “The Strange Case of My Name in the North.”

However, I wanted to fill you in on one of the most interesting (weird?) regional differences I’ve noticed this year. In this case, though, we’re only talking about 2 regions: South and North.

We all have our stereotypes of Southerners or Northerners, but this trip has gone a long way toward busting up any of my own overgeneralizations. I’ve seen exceptions to those “rules” all over the country.

But now I’ve got a new, odd generalization for you, and here’s how I stumbled upon it:

At the front of my trip, I fairly quickly noticed that I was partaking in communion an awful lot. I remember telling people that I had probably taken the Lord’s Supper more times than there were weeks of this trip. In other words, I was taking communion more than once a week.

While not nearly every service contained the ordinance, it was happening more often than I’ve usually experienced. Alongside these episodes at churches, communion was occasionally held at campus ministry events, as well – like at Christian colleges.

Obviously, though, this preponderance of ordinance wouldn’t have occurred if I wasn’t packing in multiple church visits each weekend. But was this the only reason I took part in this practice so often?

Apparently not.

After spending 6 weeks in Chicago and a month in Boston, I headed south. Guess what? The communion table virtually disappeared. Suddenly, it seemed like no services included the Lord’s Supper. All through my time in the Southeast… then during Winter Break in Dallas… if I experienced communion at all, it was only once or twice.

Really. I thought it was a pretty weird contrast.

And then… the pattern showed up again this semester! In fact, I had kinda forgotten about this situation until, as I worked my way up the California coast, I got closer to the Bay Area. You know, in Northern California.

From that point, to Seattle and then throughout the Northwest, the Lord’s Supper was again en vogue across my itinerary. This added to the evidence that I had indeed stumbled upon a (body and) bloodline, a sort of Mason-Dixon line of communion-taking.

It has now only been a month since I left the Northwest, so we’ll see if this situation holds up this summer, as I traverse further northern and southern parts of the U.S. But the contrast has appeared often enough – and I’ve seen a big enough difference in communion quantity – for me to notice.

So that’s this week’s brain teaser… Why in the world might I encounter significantly more instances of the Lord’s Supper in the North? Is it something about northern culture? the states I visit? is it something about the trip itself?

Obviously, I’ve had some time to think about this curious aberration. I’ll get to my analyzations in another post soon. (Believe it or not, I think some of this even gives us fodder for Collegiate Ministry thought.)

Until then, do you have any guesses?

Written from Columbus, Ohio

4 Comments

  1. S.

    You asked for guesses, and this is purely that. I have almost no experience with the south, but I have a stereotype that they are more conservative than northerners. (Apologies to those on either side who are offended by my stereotype, and would love to be set straight if it’s off, though I do know that generalizations do not apply to all the individuals in the group.) I am guessing that in this case the conservatism is to the type of protestantism historically held in the south, while northerners are more interested in trying “new” things like frequent communion. I wonder if there is any similar regional divide in protestants interested in “The Great Tradition” of the Church, or if that has become a more uniform phenomenon?

  2. Shelly Webb

    I’m wondering if more of the church folks in the North come out of a more Catholic background, so the churches that are reaching folks do emphasize the liturgical stuff a bit more…

  3. Oh – and S. – you’re definitely right about conservatism in the south!

    My guess is that the North is also more “progressive” (regressive?) in thinking about the ancient faith forms, as well. But I’ll keep an eye out as I continue the trip.

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