At 20:17:40 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Sunday July 20, 1969 the Eagle Lander of the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon. One of those dates that will be marked forever in human history.
Less known, certainly at the time, was a private ritual going on in the lander. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had the idea and while it was initially rejected by NASA it was approved so long as he kept it quiet (which he did until October on 1970).
Aldrin wanted to have communion on the moon.
With the bureaucratic permission granted he then had a theological issue. Although he was an ordained elder in the Presbyterian church, it was unclear if he could serve communion to himself on his own. The circumstances were unprecedented.
He approached his pastor, Rev. Dean Woodruff of Webster Presbyterian Church near Houston, who consulted with others. The answer was a clear “Yes”, although again the circumstances were unprecedented.
Woodruff secured a small silver chalice which, along with a small amount of wine and communion waffer, went into Aldrin’s “personal preference kit ” and thus to the moon.
Two and a half hours after landing, before preparations began for the EVA Aldrin removed the elements and broadcast this message:
“This is the LM pilot, I would like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”
He then silently read from John 15:5, which he had scrawled on a 3-by-5-inch card: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”
He then performed the ritual in silence alone, Armstrong did not partake, making the communion elements the first food ever taken on a celestial body other than Earth.
Perhaps there is no lesson to be learned here, but in a week where my anger and frustration at the systems in the world is high I needed a little bit of that moment of peace and quiet. The serenity of one man silently acting out his faith on the moon on one of the most important dates in human history.