How to Take Communion

How to Take Communion February 8, 2011

Communion Elements at Solomon's Porch - copyright Courtney Perry

My dissertation, like any, uses a lot of resources (390 footnotes, and counting) and tries to do a lot of things.  But it is primarily a proposal for a radically egalitarian ecclesiology, particularly reliant upon the theology of Jürgen Moltmann, and particularly possible in the still-young emerging church movement.

The practice of the Lord’s Supper is central to many emerging churches, as it is to many mainline, liturgical churches.  But, as with most traditional Christian practices, emerging church congregations have renegotiated both the meaning and the method of this sacrament.  My home church, Solomon’s Porch, may be at the forefront on this.  We practice a kind of pastiche version of communion, with the aspects of several different Christian traditions at play.

However, it is my contention that most emerging congregations have not gone nearly far enough in their renegotiation of the sacrament, and it is my hope that they will go much further toward making this rite, as Moltmann envisions it, a proclamation of eschatological hope.  Because, believe it or not, there won’t be any clergy in heaven.  So if at the Lord’s Table we are, “proclaiming the Lord’s death until he comes again,” then that Table should be administered by all and open to all.

In fact, Moltmann, in The Church in the Power of the Spirit, lists six characteristics of the Lord’s Supper that he considers imperative:

  1. Communion must be central to the Christian community, must be integrated into the heart of the worship service (not tacked on at the end), and must be celebrated with bread and wine.
  2. The table must be open to those of varying theological views.
  3. Baptism and confirmation must not be prerequisites for the fellowship of the table.
  4. Everyone who follows Christ is qualified to administer the sacrament, and everyone is called upon to offer and distribute the elements.
  5. Not only should the person performing the liturgy face the congregation, but the entire worship space should, if possible, be redesigned to a “‘common room’ in which the participants can see and talk to one another.’”
  6. Communion should always be followed by “a common meal, and the proclamation of the gospel by a common discussion of people’s real needs and the specific tasks of Christian mission.”[1]

Sounds a lot like communion at Solomon’s Porch.  But it sounds very unlike communion at just about any other church I’ve ever been to.

[1] Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 259-60.

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