Apple Cider Communion w/ The Hallway


I’m back home in Santa Maria this week for Thanksgiving. I got in town this last Sunday night and went straight to a Thanksgiving party hosted by the Hallway. The Hallway is a group I started in March of 2012 and led for a while before I moved to Orange County the following August. The group is still going today and full of new faces. I’ve never really wrote much about the Hallway publicly and thought I would finally do so. A little bit.

Most people (including me) find themselves fumbling over their words when they try to explain what the Hallway is. The most unique factor about this group is the overwhelming feeling of genuine community that you get when you are a part of it. To this day I have never been a part of any group of people for any purpose that has shared a similar acceptance, grace, value, and organicity (the dictionary told me that was the noun form of organic; boom).

It’s a place where anyone can open up about anything they are going through and there is no judgment or lowering of status. For some people in the Hallway it’s the only place that they know of where they’re actually not judged. This began in the early days of the Hallway when we decided to take Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians seriously when he says “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” We wanted a group that practiced genuine grace and accepted people through anything, but were also able to be honest and say “Hey, what you’re doing is kind of messed up. You should stop.”

It all started purely as a theory; a radical proclamation of wouldn’t it be awesome if…!?

And it worked. It actually worked.

Even writing those words is awkward for me because I’m still surprised that it actually worked. I’m especially surprised because when we started I had friends who weren’t in the group (and like half the people in the group) thinking I was crazy. And it actually worked.

Another huge thing the Hallway practices is a refusal to take responsibility of others’ beliefs. You must take responsibility for your own beliefs. There is no person in the group that everyone in the group is encouraged to emulate. My friend, Jacob said you’re practically forced to make your faith your own. And in doing that, I’ve seen so many people get miraculously closer to God through that process. In being exposed to other people’s honest stories of their own faith, you grow.

So this last Sunday I walked in to see my favorite familiar faces and even plenty of new ones. We ate and laughed together and then my friend, Jacob suddenly started passing out butter crackers and filling people’s Styrofoam cups with apple cider. My friends, Anthony and Garreth held our cups and crackers and joked about how it reminded us of communion. Anthony and I recalled memories of the hundreds of communion Sundays we had been a part of growing up. We remembered the classic wait as you listen to the minister explain communion and feel the crumbs of the cracker roll down your fingers. Then after drinking from the little communion cups the proper thing to do is to then grab your row’s communion cups and stack them on yours and then pass your stack to the guy who is building a stack high enough to see from across the sanctuary. We laughed at this and then I realized that everyone was holding a cup and a cracker and I asked Jacob “Wait, are we actually doing communion??”

Apparently I was the only one who didn’t realize it. And yes, they wanted to do it with Apple Cider and butter crackers. Yes, they are a bunch of weird hipsters sometimes. But I love them.

I asked if I could lead it because I had never done it before and they were happy to let me.


And I basically said this:
At the last supper Jesus said: “This is my body given to you. Do this in remembrance of me.” When he says this I don’t think he is only referring to the ritual but to something bigger at the same time. I believe he is saying “This is my body given to you. So give of your bodies in remembrance of me. This is my blood poured out for you. So pour of your blood in remembrance of me. Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice for the healing and reconciliation of this world to God. Continue my work and be my body in this world as I go to the Father.”

I believe that when we take communion in remembrance of what Christ did for us we are agreeing to take on the responsibility of being his body in the world. We are committing ourselves to give of our bodies to this work of literally re-membering (to member, meaning piece together) and putting life into a new body of Christ. We consume the symbols that represent Christ’s blood and body in a promise to then be his body. That’s why Paul says not to do it in an unworthy manner because you are taking on a huge responsibility, so don’t commit yourself to this if you’re not willing to follow through with it.


The Hallway ate and drank and I then asked Jacob to pray.

This is what I believe all Christians should see. We partake of communion out of thankfulness for what Jesus did for us, but thankfulness reaches its full completion with a promise to give the gift you’ve been given to others. Lewis Hyde points this out in his book, The Gift by comparing it to the first and last steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit your problem and commit to learning how to get better. The last step is to share that message of how to get better with other alcoholics. You cannot jump from the first step to the last step as some desire to do. You must let the teaching change you first and the last step of letting it fully change you is then using the teaching to help others.

Taking of the body and blood of Christ works in the same way. We consume it out of thankfulness and thankfulness comes to full completion when we continue Christ’s work in us to others around us. And what has blessed me most about the Hallway is that they live by this without even realizing it all the time. And I am extremely thankful that God has brought us all together for such a great purpose.


MGMT and Ecclesiastes [Part 3]: A Good Sadness


Lately my heart has been coiled up in what I can best describe as a Good Sadness. It first started out as a title to an MGMT song on their latest self-titled album. Then as I thought over the seemingly oxymoronic title more and more it begin to position itself as the perfect language to describe some things that I wasn’t able to simply put words to before.

I haven’t always been a harbinger for Good Sadness. I used to be very much a victim of a bad sadness. I grew up with cynics for friends. Being cynical was absolutely normal. Cynical was just a synonym for realistic, and if you weren’t being realistic you were either being delusional or stupid. So cynical was the way to go if you didn’t want that. And as the cynicism cultivated itself in my heart the less I trusted people and the more I assumed the worst from them. The worst part of it all was that my assumptions of the worst always turned out to be true. And of course the thought process was always “well if it’s true then you’re not really being cynical, judgmental, inconsiderate, and merciless, right?” After all cynical logic says “By showing constant displeasure in their actions, they will be encouraged to stop acting that way. If you show grace then they’ll just keep messing up and think it is okay to fail.” Again and again however I saw the opposite to be true. It is the people who are expected to fail constantly that have the hardest time succeeding. And it is the people who are given grace and encouraged in the midst of their failures that are able to succeed.

No matter what failure will always be there and sadness will always come with it. It just depends on what you do with the sadness that differentiates the good sadness and the bad sadness.

Ecclesiastes 7:3 says:

Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

From first reading that may sound utterly ridiculous and strange! The Bible isn’t supposed to say those things! It’s supposed to say that laughter is better than sorrow, so just smile because a smiling face makes the heart glad, right?! After all, that’s the advice we usually give each other: If something bad happens, just chin up, ignore it and smile. And is this not why we get so wrapped up in things like drugs, partying, entertainment, and even church participation at times? As Ecclesiastes 7:4 reads:

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

We go out on a binge of apathy and repression hoping to forget about our problems because that’s what we’re supposed to do. As the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard said:

Most people live dejectedly in worldly sorrow and joy; they are the ones who sit along the wall and do not join in the dance.

This type of sorrow knows there are issues to be dealt with but refuses to deal with them. This is what I actually saw when I read the lyrics to MGMT’s A Good Sadness:

But it’s hard to catch it and let it go,

find excuses to burn right through the grief

and to melt; to melt; to melt

oh my poor memories

down to a trace

‘Til you forget that I’m alive

and you feel it’s alright

ooh I’m sure you’ll be fine

tune it out and I’m sure you’ll be fine


Yet I believe there is a different kind of sorrow—a different kind of Good Sadness—one that is not fed by being buried under fake smiles. The Hebrew word for sorrow in Ecclesiastes 7:3 is ka’ac. This type of sorrow is one that is temporary and provoked for a purpose. It comes and goes and the reason it comes is so that something is done about what is causing the sorrow.

A bad sadness is apathy, or repression. A good sadness is being overcome with so much despair that you are willing to change things.

Paul described Abraham in Romans 4:18 as a man who “in hope he believed against hope.” I feel like this is what it means to have a hope against hope: Abraham walking up the mountain with his son by his side, ready to sacrifice his son by the Lord’s command, even though the Lord promised he would give him many descendants. Even in the midst of all hopelessness and an assumed impossibility for change, we still hope for more, even if we don’t know what exactly it is that we are hoping for. And Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the substance of what we hope for, or the confidence in what we hope for. Faith is hope in action.

Therefore the natural progression must be from sorrow to hope to faith.

Most importantly however, none of these steps should be skipped or skimmed over. I’ve seen people jump straight to hope when trauma occurs and neglect the complex and difficult issues that must be felt and addressed before optimism pokes its head through the mess. And I’ve seen some people jump straight to faith, and pretend that there is no issue to even consider and that we must keep going and let God handle it. And I believe that jump is the most harmful because it leads to repression, neglect and phony faith. To reach faith one must go through the sorrow, that embraces and addresses the fragility of the situation. Then one must hope against all hope for change. And only then can one reach a healthy expression of faith. And it is in that moment that faith becomes an action.

The writer of Ecclesiastes is trying to get us to experience life in all its complexity and fullness and one can only reach this encounter with life when one faces up to all the emotions that God has given us and use them in the right way. In verse 13 and 14 he says:

Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

And the reason it cannot be fully discovered is because all we have is faith. And we can only get to faith through A Good Sadness.