Communion service blog news

There were two recent blog posts others wrote that I wanted to lift up respecting Communion.

1. Cee Jay (Cee Jay’s Cyber Space) notes how the interim minister of her church recommends a monthly communion service — either before or after the main service — and she suggests this might fill a liturgical and pastoral void. Her recollection of Brethren services match what others have said about their beauty and simplicity. Here, of course, I should note that Southern and some Ohio Valley (the old “Far West”) Universalist churches were descended from Brethren churches.

As I’ve written before, despite how an off-main-service communion might be interpreted as (1) the Christians hiving off or (2) the Christians being boxed up, this is how communion was actually practiced in the then still-Christian Unitarian and Universalist churches going back centuries. Indeed, in my last pastorate, a Christian church, post-main-service Communion was the norm up to a generation ago.

And given the rhythm of the liturgy, it really ought to be post not pre.

I would also recommend the officiant be the minister, a regularly invited guest minister or a lay officiant appointed by the whole congregation. This is, after all, a ministry of the whole congregation and not of a rump. Wiser policy and politics, I’d think.

2. Stephen Lingwood (Reignite) writes about a stacking chalice, plate, basin and oil lamp. When stacked — sans plate — it looks very much like the flaming chalice well known in Unitarian Universalist circles. But the individual pieces then can be reconfigured for communion (with plate) and baptism (chalice and basin).

OK — basin might be an overstatement. Soup plate is closer, but I wanted to highlight these liturgical multitaskers. I only wish you could get them in something lighter, like silverplate.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

15 thoughts on “Communion service blog news

  1. The old red hymnal (Hymns of the Spirit) has two communion service. the “shorter form” “to be used when the Communion follows immediately after the Order of Morning Worship.” includes a statement allowing those to leave to do so at the conclusion of the hymn following the sermon.

  2. We have monthly communion during the service. This practice, however, dates from the merger of the UU and UCC (then Congregational Christian) Eliot Churches back in the 1940′s. It isn’t clear what the tradition on the UU side was before then. I suspect (from fairly circumstantial evidence) that it was post regular service and probably only quarterly. Certainly our deacons were an import from the trinitarian church…

    As for folks who don’t wish to take it, the consensus is that they sit tight until the service is complete.

    I really liked that chalice multitasker. the problem for us (and this, I think shows the range of the churches affiliated with the UUA) is that we don’t do the chalice thing and we take communion with the little cups. we really could use something for Baptisms, though…

  3. I think the string of logic is that those participating in the communion of the faithful (the sacrament) are the communion of the faithful (the spiritual unity). Most Christians mark the entry into the spiritual unity through the sacrament of baptism and perhaps confirmation.

    But there’s another question: does baptism precede conversion or confirm it? This is the sort of thing that would have (say) Episcopalian and Baptist theologians stirring up a ruckus, and I’m not going to spoil the fun by stepping in and giving an opinion. But if the Baptists are right and conversion precedes (confession of faith which precedes) baptism, then one can rightly be a Christian before baptism and one could argue that said person would be rightly admitted as a member of the communion of the faithful.

    You don’t see a lot of this argumentation because it looks like skirting baptism, which some Christians are willing to do openly. This includes a few Universalists, but perhaps not a majority.

    Which brings us back to the question: who’s admitted? My answer. Christians, but I’ll include very shaky and embryonic ones for good reasons, which I’ll try and defend later. I’m not sure why a non-Christian would want to participate, but think it is reasonable for Christians to set up a boundary excluding those who haven’t the slightest commitment. Compare this the the fence one would erect around a minefield.

    In practice, I don’t know liberals in any denomination who want to check papers but do want to distinguish themselves from those who are unnecessarily restrictive in table fellowship. The result is overreaching invitations that sound facile and unprincipled.

    Feel free to discuss.

  4. taken from a document taken from Wikipedia. (actually a Catholic document about a joint Catholic-Methodist paper) http://gccuic-umc.org/web/rc_um_may2005.htm
    “(The United Methodists) practice “open table,” inviting to Communion all “who seek to live in relationship with the triune God and with one another,” it adds. “All who respond in faith to the invitation are to be welcomed. Unbaptized persons who respond by grace to the invitation are urged to be instructed in and receive baptism as soon as possible, as a sign of the conversion that has occurred in the reception of the Eucharist.” “

  5. A little more into the United Methodist’s Open Table includes the below in a review of
    “Let Every Soul Be Jesus’ Guest”
    http://www.umph.org/resources/publications/review.asp?review_id=155

    “The open table, Stamm notes, is at the heart of United Methodist identity. It is one of the few things that United Methodists across various political, social, and theological divides agree about passionately. All of those United Methodists who normally fight passionately against each other suddenly join ranks and fight passionately with any third party who criticizes the wide open table.”

  6. To weigh in from a Progressive Christian viewpoint. As an affiliate of The Center for Progressive Christianity I agree with the 3rd point which says this about communion…

    Understand the sharing of bread and wine in Jesus’s name to be a representation of an ancient vision of God’s feast for all peoples;

    and the concept that we should (4th point)…

    Invite all people to participate in our community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order to be acceptable

    If we dedide to do this (Cee Jay and I are members of the same church) my hope is that whomever would like to participate and comes to the table with an open heart should be free to do so.

  7. I grew up Methodist (very liberal Methodist), and excluding someone from the table would be the antithesis of the very celebration of communion to me. Communion for me is a way of uniting people with each other and humanity with the eternal spirit. To have it used as a way to exclude people is just blasphemous! I guess you could say it goes against my construct of sacred that I wrote about in a recent post.

    As to the baptism discussion, having been baptized (Methodist)as a baby, I understood my confirmation to be my acceptance of Christ’s invitation to follow him. This confirmed my parent’s dedication ( my baptism) to lead me in this path until I was able to make the decision for myself. When I joined the Brethren Church, they accepted my baptism and confirmation and did not require me to be re-baptized. I am thinking that Anabaptists do not have confirmation, only adult baptism.

    When I was a child, our minister said that we should take communion when our parents felt that doing so would be meaningful to us (no mention of baptism status; no discussion of what meaning we were to get out of it). To me, people who find it meaningful, should be welcome at the table. Thanks for sharing the Progressive Christian view with us Jamie. It works for me.

  8. This stance over-identifies liberal civil society (and the necessary virtues of tolerance and inclusion) with Christian faith. It subtly assumes that members of society — by no other reason than they are members of society — are eligible for the benefits (and liable for the responsibilities) of Christian discipleship. A great recipe for a state church but overreaching in a pluralistic society.

  9. I guess this depends of how one looks at communion.
    Is it a benefit of Christian discipleship, or is it a blessing to be shared?

    Obviously those of Methodist views would tend toward the sharing.
    but yeah, there is something to be said for it as a benefit.

    steven rowe
    (grandson of an UB minster – and UB is the U in UM)

  10. There are other ways to look at Communion besides benefit and blessing — both of which place the communicant as object of the action — that focus on the communal response to God’s past and future activity. This is an old dispute, incidentally; I would have given Solomon Stoddard trouble, too.

  11. Wish I had come into this earlier. I wrote a piece at http://www.progressivechurchplanting.blogspot.com a few weeks back about attending a lecture on the history of the eucharist given by a Roman Catholic priest at a Theology on Tap event full of mostly young adults who were either RC, or evangelical Protestant, including a few UMCers. It includes some of my current TCPC orientation on communion, as Jamie mentions, at the church plant. (Instead of the UUA principles, we have copies of the 8 points of the TCPC available, but that’s another blog). For a book from this perspective see June Goudey’s Feast Of Our Lives, or http://www.feastofourlives.com.

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