What do you say? Do you say anything? (and why?)

A comment from a Christian visiting another church: they were so unfriendly there! when they passed the bread and wine for communion, they didn’t say anything!

This made me realise how much I’ve got used to the way we do it in my church, and how we each get used to a particular way of doing things so that we might find it really jarring when things are done differently. Sometimes that’s all it is – just customs that are unfamiliar and feel wrong just because they’re not what we’re used to. Other times it can be a question of customs that you actually believe to be wrong – people have some very different beliefs about what Communion is about, and that’s obviously going to affect some of what you think is or isn’t appropriate. (e.g. if the odd crumb falls on the floor, it would be a huge issue for someone who believes the Roman Catholic teaching, but not for someone who takes the view that the bread remains bread and only bread.)

I’ve experienced various ways of doing Communion, and in this post I’m not seeking to deal with the questions of how it really should be done, but I’m interested in people’s reactions to that one specific issue: if you’re in a situation when people are passing the bread and wine to one another, whether it’s the congregation as a whole passing it round or whether it’s someone who has been appointed to offer it to each person in turn, what is your expectation regarding a verbal accompaniment of this gesture – would you, like that Christian I mentioned, expect the other person to say something like “the body of Christ, broken for you” (just using an example of a phrase that seems to be in common use) or would you expect no words? and if you could think of reasons why (except for just “that’s what I’m used to”) I’d be interested to hear them.

My own experience, like I said, has been varied over the years. As I’ve moved on and my theology has changed over time, there are things I used to be totally comfortable with which now make me cringe – this being one example: I used to be in the Anglican church, where the priest would give each person the bread and wine and say something like that to each person individually. I’m now in an Evangelical Free Church and our custom is that the bread and wine is distributed in silence, and then something is said from the front to remind us what it’s about before we partake. (We stay in our seats and the bread and wine is brought to us, in little cups and saucers that are placed in a special thing that’s designed for holding them – kind of tricky to describe if you haven’t seen it but the salient point for what I’m talking about is that it’s a thing that gets passed along the row, from one person to another. That’s the point when people who are used to that verbal bit would expect it to happen, and would think: oh, they’re so unfriendly, they’re passing it down the row without saying a word.)

I’d pretty much forgotten about that custom until a friend mentioned it, and then I thought: but that would make me cringe. Why? Because of that RC teaching, which I believe to be totally wrong. (and no, this is not the place for discussing that question.) Because of that teaching, I cringe at the thought of someone handing me the bread and saying “the body of Christ” – because, well, it isn’t his body, it’s a piece of bread that’s meant to remind me of his sacrifice. And I’m a person who notices words, and who tends to think about what they mean.

So that’s where I’m at. But I’d be really interested to hear from others – how do you feel about this? do you have strong opinions on this issue? (and I repeat – I’m talking specifically about what is said/if anything is said, and not about the bigger questions of doctrine regarding Communion.)

Over to you.

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One thought on “What do you say? Do you say anything? (and why?)

  1. The only time something is said at our church when doing communion is at our Good Friday service at church. Typically communion is done AFTER the message, reminding us what happened on the cross, then communion and then it is “the body of Christ, broken for you”. Every other time communion is done, it’s the whole “pass the tray” thing with a devotional to focus our hearts/minds on why we celebrate communion. No other talking.

    It’s interesting that someone would feel that the people themselves weren’t friendly because of this; I never associated personal warmth or feelings with those words with communion. The focus is always supposed to be on Christ, and His sacrifice at that moment. I would question whether this person really understood the significance of communion, or was searching for a familiar ritual/tradition instead.

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