communion

We had a good communion this past weekend. It was (naturally) the traditional 5-day marathon, with a minimum of two services a day from Thursday to Monday.

The services were well attended, the sermons were clear and appropriate, the sacrament was reverent and orderly, the table addresses helpful, and the atmosphere one of togetherness: a shared sadness in the circumstances, a shared hope, and a shared Saviour.

The standard caveat applies, any time a communion season is mentioned – the important bit in the whole procedure is the administration of the sacrament in connection with the preaching of the Word on the Lord’s Day. The rest is all just preparatory (or on Monday, retrospective) – and more specifically, preparatory on the congregational level. The whole congregation comes together to prepare together for the sacrament, in a way that’s meant to complement the preparation that should be ongoing on the individual level.

Sometimes it’s interesting to imagine what difference it might make if there was an extra communion in the year which involved only the congregation’s own minister and no assisting ministers, only the congregation itself and no visitors from other congregations, only the previous Lord’s Day and no other preparatory services. You’d cut out a lot of extra activity, but wouldn’t it make so many other things so much simpler?

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5 thoughts on “communion

  1. Well, simplicity is a Reformed virtue. But what you’re imagining is an actual description of some P&R churches here that practice weekly communion. Calvin may be leaping in his grave (wherever it is).

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  2. As an advocate for weekly communion (or very frequent) I would agree with the churches that do this.

    Yes, communion can be done much more simply than many do it. The thing I hate most is where communion is just seen as an ‘add on’ to occasional sunday services, just a ‘thing we have to do’. This is not a reason to hold communion very infrequently, but rather should spur us to make much more of it than we do. We have the biblical warrant for it.

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  3. Yes to both.

    There are plenty benefits to the preparatory services, as well as vast emotional attachment and time/energy investment. So I’m not about to stop attending any services or advise anyone else to either …

    At the same time there’s no principled reason not to have weekly communion (although no requirement either). There is a lot of scope for in-house debate here – how necessary is it to maintain current practice – what is the purpose of it and what do we gain from it that we couldn’t have by other ways.

    Wonder sometimes if actual Lord’s Day services are just “something we do”. There’s always a failure to maintain a sense that each service is a unique opportunity to do a momentous thing, namely worship God in response to his own command. But presumably the conclusion to draw from this is not to have less frequent sermons, but work to raise awareness of the specialness of each service.

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  4. Many years ago, I visited a church (not Reformed) on a Sunday. They happened to be having communion that day. However, they were also having a guest preacher. When it was time for communion, I had the impression that they were rushing through it to get it over with so they could hear the special speaker.

    I remember being offended by that. I never went back.

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  5. The visiting ministers at a communion are “assisting ministers” rather than “guest speakers” – supposedly to assist the local minister in case all the additional services would be too much for one preacher.

    The need to avoid the temptation to “follow the man” is a big theme … preacher just a signpost, the treasure in jars of clay …

    Plus, each day of a communion season has its own focus with reference to the sacrament. It’s not a day of confession in a vacuum, but confession with a view to the sacrament being administered shortly. On the Lord’s Day itself, the sacrament is administered following the sermon, usually with some sort of introductory comment like “we come now to the more solemn part of the service…”

    It’s undeniable that some preachers are better than others, but overtly behaving as though the address was more important than the sacrament would (i would agree) be pretty offensive.

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