The idea for an Election Day church service came to the pastor as he was pouring juice into little plastic cups.
Mark Schloneger was preparing for Communion that day in 2008 in the kitchen of Waynesboro Mennonite Church in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The phone rang. It was a robocall from Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee that year. She was imploring Christians to go to the polls, vote for her party and take back the country.
The call irked Schloneger. It was a perfect example, he said, of “how the siren songs of partisan politics interrupts our communion with each other and God.” It was then he thought of a way to do what he considered the opposite: to offer a Communion service on Election Day to bring Christians together.
It took a full election cycle for the idea to take off, but in 2012 Schloneger and friends inspired about 900 congregations across the nation to hold Communion on Election Day.
This year, after a presidential campaign many Americans deem the most divisive in their lifetimes, these services feel even more necessary to those organizing them — independently or as part of Election Day Communion 2016, as the movement is called.
Thousands of Christians will end this election season in the pews, praying and singing to remind themselves of God’s sovereignty in their lives.
It’s not to diminish the importance of voting and taking part in the democratic process, but about seeing another perspective, said Jason Boone, the Mennonite lay leader organizing Election Day Communion this year.
“It’s one individual, one vote. We go into the booth alone and we have all this power,” said Boone. “Then you go to Communion or you’re with the body (of believers). And you say, ‘You know what? My power is going to be in serving all of these people.’”
In some churches Election Day services go back several election cycles. In others, like McLean Baptist Church in Northern Virginia, it’s a new tradition inspired in part by a presidential campaign that has exposed deep fault lines over race, religion, class and gender.
“The goal is to remind ourselves that God is One. The Scriptures that will be read have to do with God and God’s people being one and being united,” said Katie Morgan, McLean Baptist’s minister of spiritual formation and outreach.
For her church’s service, scheduled for the day after Election Day, Morgan and her colleagues have chosen, among other passages from Scripture, Ephesians 4:1-6 and John 17:20-23.
“The Ephesians passage speaks to the oneness of the faith, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism,’” Morgan said. “Through faith we are united despite political affiliation, denomination or cultural preference.”
“The John passage reminds us that Christ is one with God. Therefore, God is the author of unity, especially in the demonstration of the Trinity,” she added.
The hymns they chose for the day: “They’ll Know We Are Christians,” “We Are One in Christ,” and “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.”
Churches participating in Election Day Communion in 2016 organize a service and advertise it on the movement’s website and Facebook pages, each of which includes an interactive map to help seekers find the service closest to them. There’s no prescribed way to hold the service, though the organizers are ready to share ideas.
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