Presbyterians at the Table

Presbyterians at the Table June 7, 2014

Ronald Byars’s Come and See is a piece of theological/religious reporting, but on a topic that doesn’t often get press coverage – the movement among Presbyterians (in the PCUSA) toward weekly communion.

Byars documents that the number of churches that celebrate communion each week is increasing, examines the pastoral challenges with moving a congregation from infrequent to more frequent communion, and discusses some of the associated issues like the inclusion of children at the Lord’s table and sacramental catechesis. He addresses objections like “too frequent communion makes it un-special” and “it’s too Catholic.” The book is theologically informed, but Byars has clearly spent time in real-life churches and knows the challenges on the ground.

Byars sets the discussion in the context of the decline of the mainline. Though he argues that more frequent communion dovetails with cultural trends toward an appreciation of image and ritual, he admits that it won’t magically reverse the decline of the mainline or ensure a Presbyterian resurgence. 

This is a useful book beyond the Presbyterian world that Byars writes about, and an encouraging one. But there’s another side. I’ve frequently heard from pastors who introduce weekly Eucharist that it is often accompanied by bizarre outbreaks in the congregation. Hidden sins are exposed; carefully concealed resentments suddenly break into the open. If Presbyterians are accepting invitations to Jesus’ table more than in the past, they need to be ready for the fireworks. Read the gospels: Jesus isn’t a tame table companion.

Browse Our Archives