Amid political rancor, churches renew priorities with communion

Election Day Communion, a concept launched by a Goshen pastor, was embraced by more than 800 churches across the country Tuesday.
Posted on Nov. 7, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

ELKHART — If this year’s presidential election feels more acrimonious to you, you’re not alone.

After months of arguing politics on Facebook and watching endless, angst-ridden campaign commercials on TV, some people have been left with the desire to take a long shower.

And for some, that need for a sense of cleansing was answered Tuesday through Election Day Communion, a concept that has caught on throughout much of the country as a result of a Goshen pastor.

Beyond the rancor, some folks are left wanting a reminder of where they place their hope and unity, said Mark Schloneger, pastor at North Goshen Mennonite Church.

“I think communion speaks to both of those things.” Schloneger said.

Schloneger said he came up with the idea four years ago while working in Virginia and decided to try it again after moving to Goshen in August.

He helped develop a website, electiondaycommunion.org, and invited other churches and denominations to participate.

That led to what became a grassroots word-of-mouth campaign that helped the concept snowball.

According to his website, 877 congregations in all 50 states indicated plans to participate.

While he’s aware that past elections have been probably just as nasty, Schloneger said he thinks this year has been worse.

“It’s in our face more often because of social media and its so easy to promote that stuff and be immersed in it,” Schloneger said.

“That’s one of the reasons I think this has taken off,” Schloneger said. “For Christians, the reminder of where we are cleansed comes at the table and that’s why, in my mind, it makes sense.”

Numerous churches in the area were planning to host events Tuesday. Some scheduled events Monday, Schloneger said.

At North Goshen Mennonite, which was also serving as a polling place, Schloneger said people were invited to gather at 6:30 p.m. for a short service that would include songs, meditation and communion.

Students at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart participated in an Election Day Communion during regular chapel service late Tuesday morning.

“The focus today was very different,” said Janeen Bertsche Johnson, campus pastor at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. “We were making a lot of connections to what’s happening in the political realm.”

Participants focused on prayer and themes that points out that candidates are chosen to run the country while the church helps distinguish “who will run your life,” she said.

Students also looked at ways to think beyond division, she said.

“The church should not be a place where we judge one another based on our political views,” she said.

Bertsche Johnson said she was unsure if the practice will return again for the next presidential election, but said she didn’t see any reason that would prevent it from happening again.

“It was a good experience,” she said.

Bertsche Johnson said she the bigger question is whether Tuesday’s efforts help reshape the way people respond to Tuesday’s election.

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