Pastor’s pondering

The Sacrament of Holy Communion.  The Eucharist.  The Lord’s Supper.  Regardless of what you may call it, it is one of the most significant aspects of church gatherings.  Yet, even with its significance, churches all across the country have struggled with when and how often to celebrate it.  Perhaps you are accustomed to quarterly or monthly celebration of the Sacrament.  What about weekly?  It all depends upon your church’s tradition.

In our local congregations, we have historically fallen into the category of monthly celebrants.  Like many other parishes, we have often gathered around the table and shared the bread and cup on the first Sunday of each month.  Yet have you ever stopped to consider why?

The founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, pointed out in one of his sermons (circa 1788 and aptly entitled “The Duty of Constant Communion”) that “it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as he can.”  It is said that Wesley himself received the Sacrament every four to five days, and he challenged the people called Methodists to receive it at least weekly. So, then, why did we move to monthly celebrations?

Well, the simple answer is – circuit riders.  When Methodism came to America from England, a great many things had to change due to the new context.  Here, in those early years (pre-American Revolution until around the Civil War), there were few ordained clergy.  Thus, a pastor may have been responsible for multiple churches, riding a circuit between them on horseback (hence “circuit riders). The Sacrament was only distributed to the congregation while the pastor was at that specific site – perhaps once every four to eight weeks, dependent on how many churches were on the circuit.

Yet, even as the quantity of clergy grew in the years that followed, the people called Methodists in America had become accustomed to their routine of celebrating the Sacrament periodically, instead of the regularity as Wesley had originally insisted upon. So, the routine in sharing of the bread and cup happened only quarterly or monthly as each local church saw fit.

In the past year, we in the Waverly-Carsley Cooperative Parish have found ourselves celebrating the Sacrament more frequently.  During the season of Lent and during our summer worship series, we gathered at The Table weekly.  And this past Sunday I made a declaration that I still can’t believe I uttered with such confidence and enthusiasm – “I stand here this morning and say that as long as I am the pastor of this church, we will celebrate Holy Communion each and every week.”  I had no idea that I was going to say that!  Looking back upon it now I can only say that it was by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  God calling us back to a season of remembrance in the church – remembering Christ, and remembering the Body of Christ, bringing us all back together in unity with one another.

Please understand that I am going to be faithful to this calling.  Not because Wesley prescribed it, but because I believe it is what God is calling for us to do in this time and place.  I am certain that many will have questions, and I am prepared to have the conversations required.  But before we do, please seriously consider – why wouldn’t we want to gather around The Lord’s Table as often as possible? Why wouldn’t we want to give thanks as frequently as we can? (For that’s literally what Eucharist means.)  Why wouldn’t we continually want to be in Holy Communion with God and with one another?

Ponder these and then give me a call, send me a text, or write me an email.  I can’t wait to hear what God is telling you.

                                                            Always pondering,

                                                            Pastor Steve

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