Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Broken Bread -- my plea for all believers to move beyond shallow communion services:

I'm not critiquing the church or condemning anyone.  And, I'm not saying there is a silver bullet or single solution for stopping the exodus churches are seeing all across the nation.  I do want to focus on one area, where nearly every church I've ever worshiped with, needs a major overhaul: Communion.

If your church doesn't truly emphasize the experience of communion, don't be surprised if your church seems irrelevant.   Don't fool yourself, simply "having communion" as a part of your worship every week, is not enough.  Why is this fresh on my mind?  Once again, today I've read another article on young Christians leaving their mainline Protestant denominations to join a liturgical church.  Click here to see an example

This is nothing new to me.  My best friend from college is now a Roman Catholic.  I received a book in the mail several years ago, it was a memoir from church of Christ preacher (who preached in the very town we live in) who joined the Catholic church -- for some reason unknown to me, he wanted me to know his story.  A young man who I respect very much, and who we have considered to be part of our family for 15 years, is joining the Anglican church --causing me to rethink my thoughts on the Universal Church once again.

There are countless examples of people leaving their childhood congregations to "find" a deeper, more significant experience.  I can't blame them.  I read and hear time and again about the impact the liturgy and the Eucharist have with drawing people into something "more."

I know there's something "more," because I have been blessed by sharing communion with the Church family we worship with.  Every week we share communion together.  It is an "open" communion, meaning everyone is welcome at the Table.  We don't quickly "pass" chrome trays; we have a table set up with fresh baked communion bread.  Weekly, Rodney lovingly bakes the bread for us.  We don't use thimble-sized cups either.  We use 3 ounce Dixie cups for the juice.

There's even more substance to our ritual though.  We have soft, contemplative music playing while we enjoy communion together.  Someone will first stand up front, share a thought and pray, or simply offer a prayer, and we are all invited to leave our seats and go to the Table together.  The very act of physical motion, of moving from our seats, offers significance, partnership and participation in this most important ritual.

And then after we surround the Table breaking our bread and getting a cup of juice, we have the liberty to celebrate however fits us best.  This means, some people either quietly meditate back in their seats, in solitude, while others share communion with a group, in different pockets around the room.  Our family -- we go to a corner of the room and circle up.  We hug, we laugh, we tell stories.  We keep an eye out for lonely people too, and we invite them into our huddle.  More importantly, we all take our time.  Yes, we slow down, and unconsciously hold our bread and our cup for a minute or two while we fellowship, and without feeling rushed, we consciously take Communion.

This freedom to celebrate Communion together, at our own pace yet unified in our individual ways, is in my opinion the most precious part of our church.  Communion with our church is so real, so in depth, so tangible, so unforgettable, so needed.

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