Monday, January 10, 2011

Lord's Supper IOU

A friend of mine served a church in a rural area and was going to be gone on Christmas Eve. This created some problems, because for years this church had participated in a Christmas Eve Communion Service. With his absence, there were no ordained elders, district licensed pastors, or even local licensed pastors to stand in his place. Because of this, the churched struggled with what to do.

A. Not serve Communion

B. Serve communion but in violation of the manual and without the presence of clergy.

As he was sharing this, it got me thinking about our heritage. As a part of the camp meeting movement we inherited a lot of the frontier practices of early Methodism. We know that Wesley encouraged elders to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Lord’s Day.

We also know that there was a shortage of clergy and a great distance between the churches they were responsible for. This meant that churches were only able to receive the Lord’s Supper on a quarterly basis. Over time this became the tradition and we moved away from a weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

No one likes a back seat driver but it makes we wonder.

Would we have been better off to appoint others in the local congregations to serve the Lord's Supper in the absence of clergy, allowing for the continuation of a weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper or is it so important that clergy lead in the Celebration of the Lord’s Supper that it warrants a less frequent celebration?

If you had been the pastor that was going to be gone on Christmas Eve, what would you have encouraged them to do in your absence? Why?

I look forward to learning from you.



Mike McVey said...

Honestly, this is a reason I play some word games with this sacrament. The Nazarene version seems to make a funeral out of the ritual, so I rarely call it communion unless I am using the Manual's particular service.

We serve Eucharist every week save for Advent and other specific times of the year. For us Eucharist is the festival that we are among those who wish to experience God. It is also why we have food for every service in that we fulfill the Eucharistic feast.

And yes, I think the pastor should have appointed some people to lead the communion.

Joseph said...

IOU for communion. Classic :-)

If it were me, I would do my best to find a licensed or ordained person to stand in in my absence. If the Eucharist is to remain a sacrament, and if we are to be true to our understanding of ordination as it relates to the sacrament, we must do our best to practice our beliefs.

If, however, no one could be found to stand in my place in my absence, I would either, make provision for a Eucharistic service before I left (like the Sunday or Wednesday before Christmas Eve) or I would encourage the congregation to attend another local church who would embrace them at their Eucharistic service.

Many churches have Eucharistic services on Christmas Eve and would be more than happy to welcome anyone into their worship. If they truly understand the Body of Christ, they will embrace their brothers and sisters in fellowship.

This situation occurred in my hometown (a rural church). It snowed on Christmas eve, so our minister cancelled our service, which would have been a Eucharistic service. In lieu of this, our family went to the local Episcopal service who were holding a Eucharist in spite of the snow. They welcomed us in their worship. It was a great evening.



Eric + said...

So I am wondering (not being critical) what could possibly make a pastor be absent on Christmas Eve. That would be like the pastor deciding to take Easter off. In most professions, clergy included, there are times that absence is unacceptable. My wife is a teacher. There are certain days during the year that short of hospitalization or death are not eligible for taking off. For pastors, holy days are such occasions.

I know it is very difficult navigating family issues at the holidays, but as Joe said, "if the Eucharist is to remain a sacrament, and if we are to be true to our understanding as it relates to the sacraments," perhaps our vows ought to mean that there are certain times (Christmas included) when we make the sacrifice to be with our parishes celebrating with our true families.

BTW... IF I HAD to be gone on Christmas Eve, I would find another Elder to celebrate.

BThomas said...

Valid question.

In this case, he was in the midst of a pastoral transition and in the process of relocating to his new church. He had already resigned. The timing was indeed unfortunate, and because of the timing and a pastoral shortage in that area there was a lack of other elders available.


Eric + said...

Thanks for the context Brian.

J.B. Chapman said...

Foosball Master,

I think you already answered your question with your earlier post about D.I.Y. Communion. Problem solved, right?!!!

Todd Stepp said...

I agree with Joseph. I would be there, but if not, and no elders available, I would make arrangements and encourage them to attend another church. If no elders and no other churches, I would provide the service early. But, again, I would be there.

I would not encourage or suggest that the sacrament be presided over by those whom the Church has not ordained to Word and Sacrament. This is not a personal thing, this is a theological thing, an ecclessiological thing, a theology of ordination and a sacramental theology thing.

If Wesley and the early Methodist would have opted for such a position, things would be very different for Wesley and those in the Methodist tradition.

Mike, I am curious as to why you would not have the sacrament during Advent or other specific times of the year (save Good Friday). It seems to me that if one limits the sacrament to Eucharist only, one allows the pendulum to swing to the opposite side and misses the full range of depth found in the sacrament.

Mark Cummings said...

I've been a member of an Episcopal church for over a year and have attended there for almost three years. We lost our priest due to limited finances last year and since that time have had a rotation of priests come about every other week to lead the Eucharistic services. On other Sundays we have a prayer service. Every wednesday we have a healing service and receive the sacrament which is led by a worship leader and the elements have been consecrated before hand. When we get to the portion of the liturgy where the elements are consecrated we skip over that, of course. I miss that part of the liturgy, but I certainly wouldn't let it keep me from the table.