27 December 2009

Holy Communion

Probably one of the biggest changes in my worship life since I move to the US has been my "relationship" with the liturgy of Holy Communion.

Although congregations in the British Methodist system only celebrate communion once a month, as a minister, I generally presided at a Sunday communion service every week as I served four congregations. In addition to Sunday communion services, I often attended a mid-week communion service at the local Church of England parish and my duties often required me to preside at communion at local nursing homes as well as to celebrate with individuals who were house-bound.

So, it has been a big change to go from presiding at or receiving communion once a week or more to receiving communion once a month on Sundays.

I don't really consider myself an "expert" on Methodism in the New World, but I'm given to believe that within living memory, there were congregations which didn't celebrate communion in the main Sunday service, but which had a "tack on communion" at the end of the service. I remember briefly attending a Methodist church in Washington DC in about 1979 or 1980, where communion was held in a separate Chapel directly after the main service which was held in the sanctuary. Methodist communion here still feels a bit like a rush-job to me: it feels like it's "tacked on" to the service of the word which feels like it's is "the real deal" with communion as something of an embarrassing activity like getting caught making out in the car as a teenager. At least our pastor uses the entire communion liturgy: Great prayer of thanksgiving and epiclesis as well as the words of institution. In a number of places, I've experienced just the words of institution.

Yesterday (Saturday) evening, I attended a local Lutheran congregation which had sent out an invitation to their Christmas service. I didn't want to go to the Christmas service as our congregation had its own, but I learned from the Lutheran congregation's website that they hold a "blended" style of worship on Saturday evenings at 5:30 and the website advertised communion at every service. Yesterday evening was a service of nine lessons and carols (something I think is probably unusual in the US?), with communion at the end. Here again, the "communion liturgy" consisted only of the words of institution, but the rest of the service was somewhat more "liturgical" and everything seemed to flow towards the communion rather than making the communion an embarrassing afterthought. It was a sufficiently positive experience, that I think I will become a regular at this Saturday evening service. It will be good to have communion once a week again.


J A Y B said...

Hi Pm and Happy New Year to you.
Yes holy communion is often under-played in churches. Though Park Hill Evangelical Church in Brighton UK has one once a month and the words and the meaning are incorporated as part of the service.

I do hope you will be provided with an open door to continue in your vocation as a preacher of the Word. Your past blogs, as I said before, have really been a blessing and a way to move forward for me. I am sure the Lord has you in mind for something that is just around the corner.

God Bless you and you family. Shalom.

PamBG said...

Hi jay and thank you for your kind comments.

I apologize that my comment notification isn't working and I've just seen your comment.

Prayers to you and yours for a blessed new year too. Shalom back. :-)