Tuesday, November 30, 2010

D.I.Y. Communion



In my area I have noticed an interesting and somewhat disturbing trend of "Do It Yourself Communion." For example, a local non-denominational church posted in the local paper, "On the first Friday of every month, the _______ Church will be open from 9:00 a.m.--5:00 p.m. with prepackaged bread and juice available throughout that time. Whenever it is convenient for you feel free to pop in, and take Communion or take it with you, and take some home to your family as well."

(I have seen similar statements coming from Nazarene Churches as well, so please don't think I am picking on this particular church, their statement just reminded me of this practice. )

So here are my questions:

What would motivate us to serve communion this way?
What if anything about this statement should disturb us?
What does this statements say about the ecclesiology of the participating local church?
What does it say about their understanding of Communion?
What role does a sacramental versus an ordinance understanding play in "D.I.Y. Communion"?
How is this similar/dissimilar to home communion?
What would you tell a member of your congregation who proposed that your church participate in something similar?

I look forward to learning from your responses.

Brian

14 comments:

Mike McVey said...

1. What would motivate us to serve communion this way?

Radical Individualism

2. What if anything about this statement should disturb us?

I guess my question is what should not disturb us about this statement?

3. What does this statements say about the ecclesiology of the participating local church?

At best, that the church provides the materials. But really it just says that the part (individual) is more important than the whole.

4. What does it say about their understanding of Communion?

That Communion is a private affair.

5. What role does a sacramental verses an ordinance understanding play in D.I.Y. Communion?

I hate to admit that I don't understand this question very well.

6. How is this similar/dissimilar to home communion?

At best you can say it is exactly the same for those who pick up the items to take home with them to serve family.

7. What would you tell a member of your congregation that proposed that your church participate in something similar?

I would explain that communion is a community event not an individual one.

J.B. Chapman said...

McCommunion - the host with the most (drive through business).

One question for those who would know... in these particular churches... (I highly doubt this) are the wine and bread sanctified? Has the epiclesis or some prayer been prayed for these "elements?"

To answer in general... (from a paper that I am working on)... the church’s cultural captivity has its source in a reduced gospel that focuses on individual needs rather than God’s call to mission. For the most part, the American church proclaims a personal, privatized, and churchless gospel. In such a setting, church life is optional, voluntary, and self-serving. The church exists for the needs of its parishioners rather than as a witness of the kingdom of God. Ministry is done for parishioners rather than with them. The support given by the church is primarily directed to an individual’s inner life and struggles and not to the community’s external calling to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of God’s kingdom. Worship is viewed as either an emotional boost or an end in itself and not as divine preparation for sending out into the community. Preaching is “the impartation of clerical wisdom to help the saints prepare for heaven while coping with this ‘vale of tears’” rather than “the exposition of God's Word to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4: 11ff.)” (Gruder - The Continuing Conversion of the Church).

Therefore Communion, is no longer communion but means and form which one receives the body of Christ with out the obligation to be the body of Christ, to be in unity with the community. It is a feelgood, narcissistic stroke to the self, a kind of holy masturbation deemed acceptable by the church, and enjoyed by the masses. (no pun in the last word)

Joseph said...

McCommunion :-) I also like, McEucharist. Or in light of a recent post, McSacrifice.

What would motivate us to serve communion this way?

Consumerism. Capitalism. Individualism. Non-sacramentalism.

What if anything about this statement should disturb us?

Everything.

What does this statements say about the ecclesiology of the participating local church?

They have no ecclesiology. They have a business model of a social gathering in which they don't actually have to gather to feel a part of the gathering. Makes me think of 'church online'.

What does it say about their understanding of Communion?

They have a poor understanding of communion. They neglect the proper nature of the word 'communion'. To have communion is to actually commune, not only with Christ, but with His Body, the church. It also says they don't really care about Christ and his purposes, but as has been said, they care to give the consumer what they want.


What role does a sacramental versus an ordinance understanding play in "D.I.Y. Communion"?

The word 'ordinance' lessens the sacrament to 'something we do' rather than 'something we are'. If you think of it this way, an ordinance in a city states: You must not litter in the park, or You must pay a fee if you want to set up a business. Using this term conjures up thoughts of legalism and obligation, rather than a heart-felt expression of communion and thanksgiving with Christ and his Body. Sacramental language cuts much deeper to the heart of the issue. We ARE the Body of Christ. Participating in Communion is participating, actualizing, who we are. It is NOT just something we do.

How is this similar/dissimilar to home communion?

This is an interesting question. What do you mean by home communion? If you mean a minister takes consecrated leftover elements from a service and serves them to parishioners who were absent, then McEucharist is nothing like home communion.

If, however, you mean anyone takes some bread and wine to a person at home and says, 'here's some communion', then it may be similar. Although, I appreciate home communion more if it consists of consecrated leftover elements from a service given to someone who was unable to attend for certain reasons.

What would you tell a member of your congregation who proposed that your church participate in something similar?

Run as far as the East is from the West from this idea. It is contra-Christian, anti-communion, and hurtful to the Body.

Joseph

BThomas said...

JB in answer to your question. As far as I am aware, according to the secretary at this particular church there is no prayer, the elements have not been consecrated. She simply refills them when she comes in in the morning. I also like your analogy in as far as I am willing to take it, there is a sense in which this is a lonely, empty, and unsatisfying practice that is described here.

Joseph, sorry for being unclear. Home communion does have a few different faces. I was thinking specifically of the family that buys bread and juice and takes "communion" every week as a part of their family devotions. Not necessarily in conjunction with the church. More along the idea of what is communicated here when this church.

When Jesus said, "do this in remembrance of me," part of me wonders if the "this" described here, is really anything like what Jesus did or told us to do. I loved how you stated "Participating in Communion is participating, actualizing, who we are. It is NOT just something we do." Amen and Amen!

Todd Stepp said...

I am amazed . . . in a very upsetting way.

I will not spend time answering all of these questions (those of you who have read some of my long responses in the past will be glad!). I'll just echo those comments above.

However, it does remind me of a not too different opportunity for "Communion" put on by the NYI in the Expo-center of the General Assembly a couple of quadreniums ago. It was a multi-sensory . . ."booth" that provided the "pop-top" Jesus Communion elements in a come and go, individual setting. There were a lot of questions (by very few people, I think) about how this could happen when it seemed to be entirely contrary to Communion as expressed in the Manual.

I think that the questions raised in the post would be good and fair questions to raise to the particular pastor. - I would love to hear his/her response.

Sometimes, people just don't see the big deal (or don't care). Sometimes, they simply haven't thought about it (and sometimes still don't care). - I would be interested in hearing his/her response.

Todd+

Todd Stepp said...

BTW,

I recently received a comment on my blog from that all too famous, Mr/s. Anonymous, which simply said, "REPENT."

My reply was to ask what I should repent of, expressing that, if s/he truly thought I needed to repent, s/he had the Christian duty to explain what I needed to repent of.

To date, I have received no reply.

I bring it up here, because I have noticed that there have been comments "removed" or "deleted" from this blog on more than one occassion. I wondered if, perhaps, these comments and the commment on my blog might be connected. (I did not see any of the comments on this blog prior to their being deleted.)

Todd+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Joseph said...

Todd,

Just to let you know, my deleted comments were because my computer posted my comments three times in a row, so I deleted two of them.

Joseph

Eric + said...

You can call this anything you want... but please don't call it "Communion."

Pastor Brian Thomas said...

Eric I couldn't agree more.

Brannon Hancock said...

*shakes head*

wow. it's sad, really.

(and p.s. no, the "repent" troll has not graced us...yet)

thanks for this excellent post, Brian, and dialogue, all.

Rich Schmidt said...

I know there are Nazarene churches on our district that do something like this on Christmas Eve. People are invited to drop in with their family between ___ and ___ to celebrate communion together. I'm not sure what is involved in the worship experience, but I do know that a pastor is present and that people can come and go at whatever time is convenient for them.

If someone in our congregation proposed doing something like this, I would remind them that communion is something we do together as the church as a public act of worship, not something we do privately as individuals. We come together to Christ's table, etc.

I'm curious about the non-denominational church that practices the "first Friday drop-in communion to go." Is this the only way that they celebrate communion? Or is this in addition to a regular (weekly, monthly, whatever) celebration of the sacrament during worship? I'm not sure what difference it would make... but the thought occurred to me that it's much sadder if this is the only way that people in this church ever experience "communion."

Re: BThomas' question about how similar or dissimilar this is from the "this" Jesus referred to when he said "do this in remembrance of me"... I don't think most any Christian celebration of communion today looks much like what Jesus was referring to. He was celebrating the Passover, an annual event... though the earliest Christians turned it into a regular event which included a full meal. Neither is much like what any of us do in worship today.

BThomas said...

My understanding from a former staff member at this church is that this is the only way they participate in "communion" because "we only had so much time on Sunday morning to get people saved, we didn't have time to be messing around with stale crackers and grape juice."

(It hurt just to type that quote.)

Brannon Hancock said...

Oh. My. God.
Forgive us, Lord.

Todd Stepp said...

Unbelievable