Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.
- William Blake
Americans will never forget the first time human beings set foot on the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched down on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong took the first step and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” An entire planet probably trembled with a new awareness of God and His vast creation.
But more was happening during this amazing time. Shortly after the men landed, Aldrin radioed NASA and asked for a moment of silence so that “each person listening in (could) contemplate the events of the last few hours.” During this quiet period, Aldrin opened little plastic packages containing bread and wine, silently read a few verses of Scripture and received communion. “It was interesting to think that the first liquid ever poured on the moon and the first food eaten there were the Christian communion,” Aldrin said later.
Only the pastor at Aldrin’s Houston Presbyterian church—and a few NASA personnel—knew that communion was happening on the moon. Why? Because the famous atheist, Madelyn Murray O’Hare, was involved in a legal fight protesting the reading of Scripture by the Apollo 8 crew. To broadcast a private communion in a very public arena might create even more challenges, and dull the luster of this accomplishment. So Aldrin was asked to “keep it quiet,” which he did.
It was twenty years before the secret was revealed. What do you think? Should the astronauts have received a Christian sacrament? If so, should they have revealed it?
Author and lecturer Joan Wester Anderson was born in Evanston, Illinois. She began her writing career in 1973 with family humor articles and was a monthly columnist for two national magazines during the 1980s. Among her 16 books is Where Angels Walk, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for over a year. Her newest book is Angelic Tails: True Stories of Heavenly Canine Companions (Loyola Press).