Culture At Large

How do you celebrate the Lord's Supper?

Andy Rau

How does your church celebrate the Lord's Supper?

Like most churches in its denomination, my church celebrates the sacrament of communion in a way that's probably familiar to most Protestants: a plate of small squares of bread is passed around, followed by thimble-sized cups of grape juice, both of which are imbibed quickly and quietly during a reading of the appropriate liturgy, followed by a closing prayer.

I have a love/hate relationship with this style of communion celebration. Let me explain.

What I love about this is that it forces me to think through, and take seriously, my participation in the Lord's Supper. My church usually reads through a preparatory exhortation about communion the week before communion is celebrated, with the goal of encouraging the congregation to spend at least some of the week leading up to the Lord's Supper thinking about what it means. The reading of the liturgy, and the long pauses for reflection throughout, during the celebration of communion itself make me feel a connection to hundreds or thousands of other churches that celebrate in the same way: this isn't some crazy practice that my own church came up with; it's an act of worship that I practice along with fellow Christians all over the world.

What I dislike about this style of communion celebration basically boils down to this: I can't think of anything that feels less like sharing a communal meal with Jesus and my fellow believers than nibbling tiny bread squares and sipping a spoonful of grape juice out of a miniature plastic cup.

I often ponder a fantasy version of the Lord's Supper in which the entire church gathers for a huge meal—a community event marked by laughter, fellowship, and prayer and closed with the breaking of the bread and drinking of wine. (Except you'd get to eat a whole piece of bread if you wanted, and drink wine out of a real glass.)

I'm not saying there's no place for the somber, quiet version of communion. But I find it a little difficult to use words like "celebration" and "meal" in reference to the bread-cubes-and-grape-juice style of communion.

Surely, there are a lot of churches out there that celebrate the Lord's Supper in different and interesting ways. Does your church celebrate communion like mine does? Have you ever tried something different or unusual? Or do you prefer the quieter, more reflective communion celebration?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church