A Celebration

Some of the fiercest arguments are at times those involving religious beliefs and practices.  All one needs to do to confirm this is to read the front page of most newspapers or watch a news program on television.  And some of these disagreements lead to deadly violence.  I recall a statement made about the recent “unpleasantness” or “troubles” in Northern Ireland which stated that the “killings were made in the name of Christ.”  For the One who is the epitome of love and peace, this is a most unfortunate misapplication of His mission.  Then there are the suicide bombers whose deeds reportedly earn them a front row seat in Paradise although assigned another destination by detractors.
Perhaps there are as many ways to celebrate Communion which is what we call it in our Presbyterian Church (USA) or The Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist in other denominations.  I doubt that there is a rigid communion protocol that most churches follow at least not at Kentyre but the basic procedures followed by most churches would be readily recognized ; however there are some principles that do not lend themselves to compromise without creating dissention even splitting congregations.  What is generally held in common is the universality of the basic meaning of the elements of bread (or Oysterettes?) and wine used in the ceremony and of course the belief in the significance of the celebration although some view it more narrowly than others for  example the belief of transubstantiation by Catholics.  But it’s not quite so simple to get agreement to some of the finer details related to the event.
What led me to this topic was a reading of the concern of some followers especially in this time of the swine flu germ scare to the safety of handling the partaken elements.  This was especially the cause of anxiety for those congregations who use a common cup for the wine  or for intinction  and for those congregations who partake of the bread in the ceremony by breaking a small portion from a loaf rather than from other methods.  It is thought by some that both actions create the possible transmission of germs and therefore not medically safe.
For some participants, the biblical statement of the use of unleavened bread and the use of real wine must be maintained to fulfill the purity of the ceremony. But for many others, there are no restrictions as to the kinds of bread used or if the wine is substituted with non alcoholic grape juice.  These distinctions have caused untold contentious arguments. Many congregations argue that this order of worship is symbolic and that the ingredients used in the ceremony are incidental to the meaning.

There is also some difference of opinion as to how the elements are served.  Traditionalists in most mainline protestant churches have officials serve, as in a meal, the seated members of the congregation.  Others come forward and kneel at the front of the church to receive the blessing and still other congregations, especially small congregations, all gather at the front of the church to be served.

Perhaps the most innovative approach I have read about is the one where the minister instructs the participants that they will receive the full benefit of the blessing by receiving not bread and wine but instead only the wafer.  One rationale for this is that this shows concern for those members who have problems with alcohol.  What would the Apostle Paul say?

Most people I know are thankful for the simple meaningful act of communion and are not overly concerned with the finer details.
Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547

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