Blog Post

Living in Full Communion

by Rev. Carol Barriger

You may know that for many years I have been involved in the AIDS LifeCycle bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  The work – the ministry – of lifting the stigma of HIV/AIDS, providing services, and helping to find a cure, is near to my heart.  I have raised nearly $100,000 for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in donations to support my rides.  This year I chose to be a sweep roadie, helping cyclists with mechanical, medical and yes, pastoral needs on the road.  We were all about encouragement and relationship.

My roadie partner (also a UCC pastor) and I were stymied for lodging on night two of the ride, in King City.  Resigned to sleeping in the car, I tried reaching for a church connection.  There are very few churches in King City, but one small one, Grace Lutheran, is an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) congregation.   The ELCA is a denomination in full communion with the United Church of Christ.  Via a Formula of Agreement with the ELCA and several other denominations, the UCC commits to reconciliation among the divided branches of the Body of Christ.  The churches recognize each other’s sacraments – baptism and holy communion – and provide for an orderly transfer of ministerial credentials among them.  Some of these relationships actually have deep historical roots.

After several unanswered phone calls and emails, I finally got wise and telephoned the church on the last Sunday morning before the ride, one hour before worship.  A wonderful person graciously helped me, and by 11:03 a.m. – one hour after worship, I had a phone call back that we would be staying with the family of a church member who had done the ride multiple times, was a longtime supporter, and eager to share roof and food with us.  It turns out that Dave and Janice took in seven ALCers that night (cyclists and roadies)!  We were a family – Lutheran and UCC – and the hospitality, the communion, and the spirit of being held was deep and real.

Robert Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  The “have to” in this case was absolutely not coerced or obligatory.  It was the have-to of love and mutuality.  It was the have-to of committing to communion.  We were transported, given places to sleep, shared laughter and table fellowship, and were roundly encouraged on our mission.  This, my friends, is full communion.  This is home.


  • Rev. WJ Reichard

    Carol, A wonderful story and reminder that we all need to be communion and community to one another… more than ever. Thanks for sharing and all of your work to support folx with HIV and those trying to find a cure.
    Wilma J. Reichard

  • Ruth Sandberg

    Carol, so good to “hear and see” you after many years. I appreciated reading about your recent fundraising adventure.
    Ruth Sandberg (now in Claremont)

  • Jennifer Fargo Lathrop

    This reflection made my day. Thank you so much for sharing this experience and for all that you have done in the ministry you have offered to those with HIV/AIDS.
    Jennifer Fargo Lathrop, now working as a spiritual care provider in Outpatient Palliative Care for PAMF Sunnyvale.

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