How may I take communion: let me count the ways

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical L...

English: Communion setting at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America worship service: an open Bible, both unleavened bread and gluten-free wafers, a chalice of wine, and another containing grape juice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I previously wrote about a few things to consider when deciding how to approach communion, specifically with regard to the form of the elements that the congregation uses. While there is no “true” bread to use for Communion, and no “authentic” wine to use in the Lord’s supper, what we choose to use can detract from the worship and remembrance that the ordinance is given to emphasize.

Additionally, it is more than likely that congregations in the time that the New Testament books were written celebrated communion as part of regular meals that they enjoyed together. We don’t do that these days (although it might not hurt to try it), so questions regarding the mechanics of serving the communion elements come to mind. If we are deviating from the norm, which involves serving people in the pews and using wafers, plastic cups, and juice (which I encourage every congregation to do, at least once), then these questions might arise:

Do we use one table and serve everyone there, individually? Do we use a common cup and common loaf? Do we have instruction and prayer for the group, or as people are served?

The possibilities are almost endless regarding how a church decides these issues, and a best practice might be determined only after trying several of them. Here are a few main points of how Covenant Grace Baptist Church is handling communion, at present:

BY FAMILY GROUP — Those receiving communion come, by family group, to the front to be given the elements. Whether singles, couples, or full houses, having people come for communion this way seems to work well, and emphasizes that the family of God is made up not of individuals, but of families, regardles of family size.

TO HEAD OF HOUSE — For those family groups that have a husband/father, the server (not necessarily the pastor!) gives a portion of bread and cup of wine to the head of household, who then distributes them among the believers of his house. This emphasizes the important role of male leadership in the home.

GROUP INSTRUCTION, PRIVATE PRAYER — Instruction by the elder usually precedes taking the communion elements, and sometimes follows. Brief reminders about the symbolism of the bread and wine is given to the family group as it takes them, with prayer for that group following.

WINE & BREAD — We alternate between unleavened bread and wafers, and have them portioned beforehand. We use real wine, but make juice available for those who prefer it.

We have also taken communion seated in smaller groups around a table, passing the wine and bread as they might have done in New Testament times. Occasionally we provide extended times for reflection and repentance.

The point about thinking now about communion elements, and how we serve them, is so that there is little thought about those mechanical matters during communion itself. Our focus during communion should not be that the stale wafer is now stuck in my back molar, or that the juice cup resembles a thimble. Instead, we should focus on what the bread and the wine represent. A little thinking ahead of time will help the congregation do that.

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