The origin of Communion
The communion meal recalls the table fellowship Jesus shared with his disciples such as the Last Supper on the night before his death as well as his appearances to the disciples during meals following his resurrection.
The meaning of Communion
In the sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving”, Christians hear, taste, touch and receive the grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ in a unique way.
a joyous act of thanksgiving for all God has done, is doing, and will do for the redeeming of creation;
a sacred memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, a living and effective sign of Christ’s sacrifice in which Christ is truly and rightly present to those who eat and drink;
an earnest prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit to unite those who partake with the Risen Christ and with each other, and to restore creation, making all things new;
an intimate experience of fellowship in which the whole church in every time and place is present and divisions are overcome;
a hopeful sign of the promised Realm of God marked by justice, love and peace.
The United Church of Christ Book of Worship reminds us that “the invitation and the call (to the supper) celebrate not only the memory of a meal that is past, but an actual meal with the risen Christ that is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet at which Christ will preside at the end of history.”
Questions and Answers
What elements are used and what do they mean?
The broken bread and poured wine represent the crucified and risen Christ. The wheat gathered to bake one loaf and the grapes pressed to make one cup remind participants that they are one body in Christ, while the breaking and pouring announce the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. At St. Peter’s we serve bread with grape juice or wine.
How is Communion served?
A variety of practices are found in the United Church of Christ, including the sharing of a common loaf or the use of individual wafers or cubes of bread and the sharing of a common cup or of individual cups either at the Table or in the pews. Intinction (dipping the bread in the wine) is also an acceptable practice. The pastor presides at the Table, normally assisted by elders or deacons.
How often is Communion served?
At St. Peter’s we share communion on the first Sunday of each month.
What words are used?
The Book of Worship and The New Century Hymnal contain several liturgies for the celebration of Holy Communion. In addition, many liturgies from ecumenical and global sources are frequently used. At the heart of the service are Jesus’ words about the bread and the cup from the Biblical account of the Last Supper.
Who may receive Communion?
The Communion Table is open to all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people according to the Book of Worship. Some visitors from churches believe communion should only be celebrated among Christians who are in full doctrinal agreement and might choose not to participate. All decisions are respected.
What about children?
At St. Peter’s it is tradition for children to first share communion on their confirmation day. In many Christian churches baptized children and even infants can receive communion. Children are welcomed to the Table, at their parents’ discretion, following a period of instruction about the sacrament’s meaning.
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said:
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
– 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
When Jesus was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.
– Luke 24:30-31
Here, O my Lord, I see you face to face; here would I touch and handle things unseen. Here grasp with firmer hand the eternal grace, and all my weariness upon you lean.
– Horatius Bonar, 1855, alt., The New Century Hymnal