As I interact a lot with pastors and church planters and often am asked how to “do” certain ecclesial activities (things done among the Church), I’ve noticed over the past few years that many questions I’ve been asked are how the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated in a Vineyard church. Since I don’t believe there is only one way to celebrate the Eucharist, I thought it would be helpful to put together a number of posts for pastors and church planters to consider for when they prepare for Communion.
Last week I started this “how to” guide on celebrating Communion by introducing what I refer to as “Open Communion.” This week I want to briefly look at what I call “Communion Served.”
After singing a few songs, imagine someone stands before the gathered church and invites people to come forward to receive Communion. As the ushers come and inform which rows are to move forward first (in an attempt to be orderly), people will leave their seats and make their way forward. Rather than arriving at a table that only has the Bread and Cup(s), the congregation is greeted by the warm smiles of two people who hand them the Lord’s Supper. This emphasizes serving, and receiving, and can point to the ecclesiological image of the Church being a family.
Positives: You can have people from all different walks of life and all different generations serve as “Communion hosts.” What a beautiful picture to have people who are elderly or young, regulars or somewhat new, serving the Church the Eucharist. It gets more than just a pastor or leader involved and demonstrates visually many of the images we’re attempting to communicate.
Negatives: As with most practices in church where people are “doing” something, you’ll need to have an answer to someone asking questions like, “Why did _______ get to serve Communion? Don’t you know that they smoke cigarettes?” If you’ve been in a church long enough you know exactly what I mean. But in reality, this “negative” really provides a positive because each time someone asks a question like that, you have a teaching moment and can cast vision as to what the church is supposed to be and look like.
Another challenge, not necessarily a “negative,” is based on church size. If the gathered congregation is large enough, having a few hundred (or more) people leaving their seats to come forward can take time. So you’ll need to be creative in how you address that challenge. For example, I’d recommend having numerous tables throughout the sanctuary/auditorium for people to go to in order to receive Communion. Yet you’ll need to make sure that the process is clear (ushers need to direct people well; the leader needs to clarify this; etc.).
Recommendations: In addition to the necessity of clarification and directing people (a recurring theme in this post), I’d recommend that you make sure that you have each person serving wash their hands and also put a small bottle of hand sanitizer on the table and tell the people serving to make sure to use it (so that people can at least see it if they are looking). You’d be surprised at how many people are germaphobes. You can also deal with this by having the hosts wear disposable gloves as well as hold the baskets or trays out toward the people in the receiving line so that they can pick up the Bread and Cup themselves.
Next week we’ll explore the relationship between Communion and the Holy Spirit. Feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comment section below…