It’s been 50 years since humans first walked on the moon, but one of the fascinating facts that is sometimes eclipsed by the overall intrigue surrounding the moon landing is that astronaut Buzz Aldrin secretly took communion before walking on the moon and read from the Gospel of John.
These events, which unfolded on July 20, 1969, are part of the fascinating journey surrounding the moon mission. Radio host and author Eric Metaxas has explained the background, noting that Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church in Texas in the 1960s:
Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church in Texas during this period in his life, and knowing that he would soon be doing something unprecedented in human history, he felt he should mark the occasion somehow, and he asked his pastor to help him. And so the pastor consecrated a communion wafer and a small vial of communion wine. And Buzz Aldrin took them with him out of the Earth’s orbit and on to the surface of the moon.
Exactly 50 years ago today, we were on our way to the Moon! It was an honor to work with this crew and a privilege to complete the mission of a lifetime. #ApolloXI https://t.co/uaiXkzPNOu pic.twitter.com/14gwL8YFcu— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 18, 2019
Once Aldrin reached the moon, he encouraged people listening to consider the gravity of the accomplishment and then paused for a moment of silence. He then silently took communion and read from John 15:5 — a verse he had placed on a 3x5 card.
The verse reads, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.”
Over the years, Aldrin has openly shared the details of his spiritual experience.
"I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,” he wrote in a 1970 issue of Guideposts magazine. “It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements."
What’s perhaps most intriguing about the communion moment, though, is that it was initially kept under wraps, with Time noting that it was “a fact the U.S. government refused to make public at the time.” Aldrin originally planned to openly share the experience, but officials reportedly pushed back against that plan, citing a conflict over the First Amendment.
50 years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I launched into space on a mission of enormous importance. God bless the 400,000 Americans who helped us get to the moon and back. Together, we Americans can do anything! Never forget July 16, 1969! #Apollo50 pic.twitter.com/lX6456UO2N— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) July 17, 2019
Time has more:
Just months earlier, the Apollo 8 astronauts broadcast parts of the Biblical creation narrative from the book of Genesis while orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve … Atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued, arguing that the astronauts were government employees and therefore their actions violated the separation of church and state. The Supreme Court dismissed the case—for lack of jurisdiction—but it created enough of a stir that NASA wanted to avoid any such distractions from their missions.
This is why Aldrin inevitably decided to keep his comments and Bible reading private and not public. Still, his experience and openness about it have inspired many.
To this day, Webster Presbyterian Church — the house of worship that gave Aldrin the communion elements — still celebrates Lunar Communion each year in honor of the astronaut’s actions. The event will unfold this year on July 21.
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