Camp Meeting 2.0–The Lord’s Supper


Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Advenists


16. Lord’s Supper

The Lord’s Supper is a participation in the emblems of the body and blood of Jesus as an expression of faith in Him, our Lord and Saviour. In this experience of communion Christ is present to meet and strengthen His people. As we partake, we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again. Preparation for the Supper includes self-examination, repentance, and confession. The Master ordained the service of foot washing to signify renewed cleansing, to express a willingness to serve one another in Christlike humility, and to unite our hearts in love. The communion service is open to all believing Christians. (1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:23-30; Matt. 26:17-30; Rev. 3:20; John 6:48-63; 13:1-17.)

My earliest childhood memories of communion services recall a somber affair. Men and women would separate for the washing of feet, after which we returned to the sanctuary. The pastor and elders sat on one side of the communion table, upon which the elements were covered with a white cloth. The deacons sat in the front pew, facing them. The deaconesses, wearing black dresses with hats and white gloves, entered silently and removed the cloth, slowly and carefully folding it like a color guard folding a flag. The pastor gave a short exhortation, then read 1 Cor. 11:23-24. An elder offered a prayer of blessing. The pastor passed the plates of bread to the elders, who passed them to the deacons, who passed them to us. When we all had a piece the pastor said, “Let us all eat together.” We did so in solemn silence. Then the pastor read 1 Cor. 11:25-26, an elder blessed the unfermented wine, and the deacons passed the trays of cups to us. We all drank together.

It was, I say, a somber occasion. It was a remembrance of the death of Jesus. It was a Good Friday experience.

What Thou, my Lord, has suffered
Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour!
‘Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
Vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

It was, dare I say, a sort of “funeral service for Jesus.” I remember one elder in particular who invariably would get choked up as he ate and tears would come to his eyes.

Seventh-day Adventists haven’t spent much ink debating the nature of the Lord’s Supper, focusing instead on simply following Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me,” and making sure that we fulfill all that entails: breaking of bread, sharing of the cup, and washing of feet. But two sentences leap out from the doctrinal statement as being at variance with my early experiences of how we did it:

In this experience of communion Christ is present to meet and strengthen His people. As we partake, we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.

This is to be a joyful experience, not one of funereal somberness. The Jesus whose death we proclaim has risen, is now “present to meet and strengthen His people,” and will come again. We come to his table having confessed our sins to one another, having washed each other’s feet, now to declare through our eating and drinking the good news in which we place our trust. We share here a foretaste of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

I could write much on the “what” of this meal, but the question we’ve been asked to reflect on in this series is “So what? What difference does it make? How should we then live?” We don’t have far to look for ideas.

Discerning the Body

During each communion service we read from St. Paul’s narrative of the institution in 1 Cor. 11. It was not an occasion of joy that prompted the letter, but the scandal of division.

Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.

He recites the institution narrative, and then follows it by directly addressing those who are using the Lord’s Supper as an occasion of division:

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

What is the “body” we are to discern? Is it, as Lutherans and Catholics suggest, Christ’s human body, present sacramentally in the form of bread? That doesn’t fit the context. The issue Paul confronts is a church divided between those with food and others who hunger, between those who are getting drunk and others who are thirsty, between those who dig into what they have and others who sit by in silence with nothing. It is to these divisions Paul speaks when he warns against eating and drinking “unworthily,” without “discerning the Lord’s body”–to do so is to eat and drink as if we had only ourselves in mind.

Paul does not leave the subject of divisions at the Lord’s Supper in the next chapter, he elaborates upon it. There are, he says, many things by which we differ from one another. He has spoken already in the letter of human distinctions (Jews and Greeks, slave and free, weak and strong, male and female, well-fed and hungry); now he speaks of different gifts we have from the Holy Spirit. Despite these differences, he says, we are one body in Jesus Christ. Indeed, these differences enrich the Body.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. … And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor 12:13, 26)

This is love (agape), about which he elaborates in 1 Cor. 13:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

To eat and drink in a worthy manner, “discerning the Lord’s body,” is to come together in love, in unity, sharing together the things of God.

“Let a man examine himself,” says Paul. When we separate for foot-washing, whom do we seek for a partner? Do we seek out our friends, those with whom we feel safe, those whose feet it is easy to wash? Perhaps we would do better to seek out those from whom we’re estranged, those who annoy us, those whose comments we dismiss in Sabbath School, those whom we would pretend not to know if we passed them on the street, those whom we would never invite into our home–and then, having washed their feet, having sat with them to partake in the Lord’s Supper, to invite them to our home as the brother or sister that they are.

An Open Table

The next point necessarily follows. If the Lord’s Supper is intended as a sign of our unity as one body of Christ, and is not to be the occasion of division, then neither can it be the occasion of exclusion. “The communion service is open to all believing Christians”–we believe baptism the only door through which any must pass. We don’t ask about someone’s Eucharistic theology, whether they are Zwinglian or Calvinist or Lutheran or even Catholic–we simply say, “Christ is present,” and he says, “Come!” We don’t ask here about personal sin or how politicians vote. Our deacons do not serve as bouncers. Everyone who hungers and thirsts is welcome.

Our practice of open communion must be taken into consideration when we discuss the ecclesiological implications of our belief that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the “remnant” of Bible prophecy. We believe we are “called out,” with a special message to proclaim before the return of Christ, but this does not translate into exclusiveness at the Lord’s Table. We affirm that “the universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ,” and we welcome to this table as brother and sister all who confess his name–even those who would not consider our church to be a “church.”

In a recent discussion of the nature of the church someone recalled the Edwin Markham verse:

He drew a circle that shut me out,
Rebel, heretic, a thing to flout,
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle and brought him in.

Our example is that of Jesus, who broke bread with men he knew would soon run and hide; one would deny him, another would betray him. He shared his bread with all.

The Bread of Affliction

There’s a further step we need to take. It’s not enough for us to be one. It’s not enough for us to be welcoming and inclusive. We need to look beyond the walls that surround us, and catch a renewed vision of our mission.

As Jesus and his disciples sat at table, many of their words and actions were old and familiar. They gathered to celebrate Pesach, the Passover, in remembrance of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery.

God’s command to Moses when he established the Passover was, “You shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:15ff), but that night when they ate it in haste was not the first time they had tasted it. “Ha lachma anya di achalu avhatana b’ara d’mitzrayim,” the Seder proclaims: “This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.” This was their daily bread while in bondage, just as unleavened bread is the staple of poor people everywhere, whether they call it matzo, tortilla or pita. Each year in the Seder Israel eats and remembers not only its own suffering, but the suffering of all who hunger, all who know the taskmaster’s whip, all who scrape together a little flour and a little water to make a simple flat piece of bread for their evening meal.

Throughout the Torah and the Prophets the experience of Israel and of all who hunger are linked, bridging Israel’s memory of its own affliction to its covenantal obligation to those who suffer:

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

We cannot know exactly what traditional formulas were recited by Jesus and his disciples, as the Seder used today is of medieval origin, but whatever they were, to them Jesus added a new layer of meaning. This bread that brought to mind both ancient suffering in Egypt and present suffering on the other side of town, would now remind them that he had suffered as well.

“This is my body, which is broken for you.”

As we’ve already seen, Paul appealed to the image of the Body to call for unity at the Lord’s table: rich and poor, Jew and Greek, male and female, all are welcome. When we read the Gospels we see that this call is even broader still. Jesus tells us not only to welcome those who come, but to go out of our way to invite those who don’t get invited to society’s galas, to share our bread with those who hunger.

When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus goes on to tell a story of a man who held a banquet and found that all his guests had excuses. So the man said in anger to his servant:

Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

That’s our call–not simply to keep the light on for those who might wander by (Motel 6 does as much), but to go out and find those who hunger. Love and service go hand in hand.

In washing the feet of His disciples, Christ gave evidence that He would do any service, however humble, that would make them heirs with Him of the eternal wealth of heaven’s treasure. His disciples, in performing the same rite, pledge themselves in like manner to serve their brethren. Whenever this ordinance is rightly celebrated, the children of God are brought into a holy relationship, to help and bless each other. They covenant that the life shall be given to unselfish ministry. And this, not only for one another. Their field of labor is as wide as their Master’s was. The world is full of those who need our ministry. The poor, the helpless, the ignorant, are on every hand. Those who have communed with Christ in the upper chamber will go forth to minister as He did. (Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 651)

Early Adventists had a fervent hope in the soon return of Christ, but didn’t neglect engagement with the world. They were involved in various movements of social reform: abolitionism, health reform, temperance. They reached out in missions to the frontiers and corners of America and to the South Pacific. I think our outward vision will become more clear as we lower our eyes to wash the feet of our brothers and sisters, and as we open our arms–and our hearts–to all who hunger and thirst.

25 thoughts on “Camp Meeting 2.0–The Lord’s Supper

  1. Love the connection you make between our remnant theology but the fact that we practice open communion. Never thought about it before but it’s great.

    I also agree that Communion feels too much like a funeral and not a celebration of what Jesus has done for us. I wonder how to actually implement that because I’ve found that the traditions revolving around communion are deeply entrenched and being very solemn seems to be one of them. How can we make it more joyous while not otally upsetting the members who are used to a very somber occasion?

  2. First, I think a distinction can be made between “solemn” and “somber,” as the Church Manual does.

    “However it closes, it should end on a high note. Communion should always be a solemn experience but never a somber one. Wrongs have been righted, sins have been forgiven, and faith has been reaffirmed; it is a time for celebration. Let the music be bright and joyous.” Church Manual, p. 84.

    I think we need to teach about it in between times. Use more upbeat hymns–Easter hymns. Encourage the reading of Desire of Ages. 🙂

  3. Three good points, Bill. Thank you.

    I also like the emphasis upon “open communion.” This is by no means a universal practice. That and the SDA hymnal are very ecumenical. As you say, they need to held up against the exclusivistic tendencies of other doctrines and practices.

    Some ways of trying to make the service more “joyous” have left me uncomfortable. On one occasion instead of the tiny vessels for the “wine,” each congregant was given a bottle of grape juice which he or she could nurse throughout the whoe service. I didn’t think that this was “wrong” or “bad,” just a little too close to being silly.

  4. Yeah, that strikes me as silly. And I think that illustrates the need to retain some “solemnity” without going the route of funereal somberness.

    Let’s start with two areas that don’t require gimmicks.

    1) The sermon. That’s entirely in the pastor’s hands to do some explaining. Also in your own demeanor as you lead the service, and your comments.

    2) The music. The SDA Hymnal doesn’t have the greatest selection of communion hymns. Here are some suggestions:

    #167 Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
    #171 Thine Is the Glory
    #175 Now the Green Blade Rises
    #177 Jesus, Your Blood and Righteousness
    #242 Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts
    #362 Lift High the Cross
    #397 An Upper Room
    #400 I Come with Joy
    #404 Now Let Us from This Table Rise
    #407 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing

    I love the Lutheran hymn tradition. Here’s one (which you can also find in more modern translations): Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness.

    Or Charles Wesley, Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast.

  5. I like how you weave in the tradition of quotes with your contemporary gloss.

    Certainly the act of communion and foot washing and the example of Jesus leads naturally to a preferential option for the poor — in spirit and and in power.

    I ‘d hopefully assume that few would fail feel the conviction of your words that we participate in social reform as a outgrowth of the rite. Yet I wonder: is there something added to the solemnity of the ritual in connecting the community-building acts of Thursday to the political theater of Friday?

    It seems to me that the witness of Christ goes beyond good works, that there is something that scared the get-rich-by-empire colluding religio-political leaders, and I wonder what that was; and if that’s a witness — an effect — that eating-and-drinking Christians should have today?

  6. Bill,

    Wonderful post. My experiences growing up in church were similar to yours. They were somber…and I remember actually feeling confused about what I was supposed to feel! I tried to work up feelings of sadness, but this was seldom successful.

    One of the most moving communions I have participated in was not in an Adventist church and participants of the service approached the table (it was an open table) to be served. As each individual was handed bread/wine, the officiant would look at the person and say, “The bread of Christ broken for you/The blood of Christ shed for you” and then serve the emblem.

    On a practical note, however, was wondering what you thought about the Adventist practice of footwashing. This came up in a discussion I had a church a few weeks ago. Many churches I have attended hesitate to practice communion as a whole because of the difficulties and awkwardness of doing this on a regular basis…I know that technically communion is supposed to take place ever quarter. I’m wondering if we would do it more frequently/be less hesitant if the footwashing was not something that happened every time…

    Just throwing out some thoughts…

  7. I blogged about footwashing a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy we do it–but again, I think we need to do more to explain it in between times.

    I’ve never heard of churches that “hesitate to practice communion as a whole because of the difficulties and awkwardness of doing this on a regular basis.” Maybe you could e-mail me privately to fill me in more on this. Or could others comment on this?

    There are lots of variations in distribution in Protestant churchs–some pass it through the pews, some go forward in a line, some go forward in groups, some receive kneeling, some receive standing, some take off of a table. I wonder, what variations have people seen in SDA churches?

    Personally, I’d like to see communion more often, especially in smaller settings–retreats, small group settings, perhaps at Vespers.

  8. Bill,

    Don’t get me wrong; personally, I find footwashing a positive spiritual experience. However, having been on the other side, organizational side of things, I know
    A. footwashing can be a logistical nightmare, especially for larger churches…It’s a lot of water, towels, buckets, basins, etc.
    B. Is awkward for many people who are not accustomed to practicing it (i.e. other Christians, non-Christians) and alienate them from the service. The church I currently attend has many people who are “just checking things out” on Saturday mornings.
    C. Is awkward for Adventists, as in many churches I have been a part of, I am ashamed to say, attendance to worship actually drops on days there are communion, or people make a quick exit after the short sermon (which they view to be the only essential part of the service.)

    The argument I have heard from other Protestants that do not practice footwashing on a regular basis, is that they practice “footwashing” symbolically by actively serving others in ministry–feeding the poor, etc. They say that washing someone’s feett once a in while is a lot easier than helping others everyday consistently.

    I like your idea of having a full communion (footwashing included) in smaller, more intimate settings like Vespers, etc. but wonder if this sends the message to people that it is “optional” and not an important part of Christian life/worship.

    Oh, and every Adventist communion I have been a part of (not counting “agape” feasts) has had deacons/elders passing out the emblems while the congregation passively sits. I’d love to see more variety than this…like the the congregation getting up and approaching the table. (I think this might freak some Adventists out as it seems overly “Catholic”/high church.)

  9. Because foot washing was only mentioned in John (correct me), why is it considered an important part of the communion service? It IS a problem for many churches, that can expect either a great number never participate or just absent themselves on those days.

    Imagine the older members who have a great difficulty bending, stooping, and performing this service. Surely, while this was an important service in the first century, today it is an archaic and obsolete practice that has absolutely no relevance to the way we live today. Is it the only way we can express humility? Are we that devoid of imagination to make it have meaning? We all eat food today, but nothing that resembles I have spoken with quite a few members who see absolutely no reason for this today. If it was not felt of importance to the three synoptic Gospels, why include it today?

  10. John mentions foot-washing but says nothing (directly) about the bread and the wine. But then, none of the Gospels talk about the details of the Passover meal, which they all say it was.

    The older members I know don’t absent themselves or complain. They find meaning. They would be the first to complain if we were to change the least thing.

    Young adults also find meaning in it–footwashing is a part of every Catholic young adult retreat I did for a decade.

    Are Jesus’ words authoritative for the Church or not? We believe they are. These rites aren’t a matter of us picking what is meaningful to us–they’re about doing what Jesus said.

    Perhaps we should press those who object. What are they really objecting to–having someone wash their feet? Washing someone else’s? Or just doing something because Jesus said to?

  11. First, Bill I must say that I liked the treatment you gave the Lord’s Supper. The posture with which we approach and perform communion has a direct correlation to faith praxis.

    Now, I for a long time I have nursed this desire to completely understand the significance of footwashing in terms of relevance. I agree with Elaine that it seems outdated and devoid of impact because of its antiquity.

    Anyway, the suggestion that we use our imaginations to develop traditions that can convey the significance of the Lord’s supper is okay with me.

  12. “I agree with Elaine that it seems outdated and devoid of impact because of its antiquity.”

    And I must ask, to whom? I still see people participating in it.

    And it was starting to take off in lots of Catholic churches until bishops started enforcing their liturgical norm that only the priest is to do the washing, and of only “select men.” Some still do it anyway.

    I’ve found it especially popular in campus ministry settings.

  13. Replacing certain traditions may be too destructive to the Lord’s Supper. Maybe a better way to go would be adding or layering the tradition to enhance its relevance.

  14. I don’t know about its popularity or what the Barna research group might say about participants versus non-participants and its statistical correlation to a sense of relevance over against popularity.

    I am speaking individually (and for individuals in my sphere that have voiced similar observations).

    Although I am woefully unskilled in these things, I will offer a suggestion because ‘ma daddy told me to never drop one on the table and then not offer a way to clean it up.’

    Maybe a contextualization by the preacher of 1st century life. Also, and this would have to be a local church thing, a dramatic depiction. I won’t go as far as making it part of the tradition by standardizing it unless someone came up with a layer that was universally agreed upon as enhancing meaning.

    I am not attacking the tradition. I thoroughly enjoy it. In speaking with youth and young adults, and this is anecdotal, I found that the significance was lacking, further more the act of footwashing was seen as a necessary requirement to get to the partake in the communion. Maybe they were just young and unfocused, but I think the onus is on the community to provide a way for the totality of the church family to participate meaningfully.
    For that reason, I took steps to convey its significance to the youth. I had some do drama, at other times I contextualized what 1st century life was like and made my way to the act of footwashing.

    To be honest I think the youth had a better appreciation than most of adults.
    I guess what I am saying is that the tradition on a whole can be layered, for all ages, so that a deep significance can be gained.

  15. Mind if I brainstorm out loud?
    1. Have a blood stained cross or door frame behind the table. few pieces of rough lumber, 10cc of blood drawn into a purple top vacutainer should do it. Youth were focused by it.
    2. Provide a smaller, more intimate atmosphere by having the communion proceed in the footwashing rooms themselves. Or have sabbath schools do it right after their discussions once (would that help the future dynamics?).
    3. Provide the rest of the traditional passover meal- ingredients and recipes are not hard to find. Friday evening.
    4. Family footwashing rooms were always appreciated.
    5. A family in traditional first century clothes enacting the first passover preceding the service.
    6. A video clip of those in need before the traditional offering for the poor that ends the service.
    7. Paper and pencils available at doors for those as they re-enter the sanctuary after footwashing- wishing to confess sins, prayers, write apologies, or give encouragement to someone. A closed slotted box for the first two categories- to be burned at the foot of the cross or in an incense holder, and a closed slotted box to be delivered by the elders for the rest.
    8. Perhaps the elderly who have trouble bending, could be encouraged to wash each other’s hands? It is even more sensitive to touch and gets dirty too.
    9. When I was young, I was taught the juice and wine had to be buried afterward and couldn’t be used for any other purpose. Would it be sacreligious to allow families of young children to take home some of the unleavened bread afterward for a private object lesson to them on the Lords’ supper at home? Church is a hard place to ask questions and get good answers during communion.

  16. Excellent commentary. I’ve a mind to send it to a Christian friend of mine who is still trying to decide if we are a cult!

    One thought keeps crossing my mind. Christ fully embodies the “First shall be last, and the last shall be first” philosophy.

    In washing the desciples’ feet He placed Himself last in the line of servants that may have been in the room. This showed that He was indeed willing to do whatever it took to reach them. (noted in comments above) They still didn’t understand. They thought it was about washing, not servanthood.

    Move forward to the present. How can we get that same message of servanthood to our “remnant church”, through our footwashing ceremony? I do agree that one way is to use it to patch relationship holes.

    But can we also use that Heavenly example as a springboard into our community and place ourselves in a position where those in our community would look forward to joining us at the Lord’s table?

    Maybe if we are able to share the solemnity and joy of this service, the other 27 principles would not seem nearly so threatening. I think the answer is the individual relationship determines the comfort level with sharing.

    And sorry, Bill, I still get a tear on those days when I think about my sins, and what they did to my Lord. Oh, that I could only stop.

  17. Arlyn, on “taking home leftovers,” that’s something that the Church Manual is pretty firm about–it is not to be treated as ordinary bread and juice afterwards and is to be reverently disposed of.

    But at Houston International, they have an interesting custom I had never heard of or seen–they give grapes to the kids.

  18. Footwashing may further denote inclusivity by being mindful of singles, divorced, and those who have lost their spouse. Washing of hands? Why not? Let the youth wash the feet of their elders and in return the elders may wash the youth’s hands!

    Zane’s account is similar to what I’ve witnessed but prior to this the pastor breaks in half a loaf of bread and pours wine/juice from a pitcher into a cup. While the bread is eaten separately, as soon as it was received, denoting individuality, community is symbolized by drinking the wine at the same time.

  19. I think all of your suggestions are applicable. Personally I am copying the lists and other suggestions for future reference.

    Ed Guzman

  20. Bill,

    Just wanted to emphasize this was an excellent treatment. It baffles me how you find time to pastor and contribute to the conversation but I’m glad you do. I think I speak for all when I say that I we truly appreciate the contribution of a person actually in field ministry.


    Ed Guzman

  21. Well, my wife and kids were gone for the past three weeks. That gave me extra time.

    They are back, and my senior pastor is gone for the next two weeks, so you’ll see a noticeable decrease in posts now. 🙂

  22. One of the small but irritating aspects of this service is the very structured manner of passing the communion. The deacon hands it to the first person in the pew, who must hold it and offer it to her seatmate and when she’s picked the bread and wine, she releases it and hands it to the next person who holds it while the first person gets her portion. All this with no particular related symbolism. Why can’t the deacon simply hand it to the end person who passes it along just as the offering plate is handled? It seems an unnecessary and lengthening part of the service. Is this all according to the church manual? If so, what discretion does the local church have in setting the parameters?

  23. This is a matter of local custom. I’ve never heard of it done the way you describe. I’ve either seen it done with people sitting every other pew or, in churches where that isn’t possible, just passing it along as you suggest. I recall at AUC that at times the bread and wine would be on tables up front, and everyone would go up.

  24. The pattern that Elaine mentions is (unfortunately) prevalent outside the NAD. I’ve attended churches in Thailand, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and found that the communion services are highly ritualized – unfortunately again, it detracts a lot from all of the outstanding meaning and pathos that communion can and should convey.

    In any case, this post presents the Lord’s supper in a very positive light. I hope that other pastors are taking notes!

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