Chuck Warnock has a great post on Communion over at his blog today on the topic of communion. His question is How Often is Too Often? I replied in the comments to that post. It does bring up an interesting subject of communion as worship. I know in our last church, I was thanked by one of the leading laypeople for bringing a sacred specialness to communion. In other words, we didn’t just tack it on at the end of the service. The whole service from beginning to end was planned with communion in mind. As I prepared for this week’s service, I had that in the back of my mind.
Our tradition (Wesleyan) requires that pastors serve communion at least once a quarter. For many years, we used that as our standard. Now, many of our churches are looking to have it more often and at different events. In our current church, we celebrate communion every other month (even numbered months.) In addition to the regular celebrations, we also participate during our Covenant Renewal Service (the first Sunday of January), Ash Wednesday, and Maundy Thursday. Last year, we began a tradition of closing our local church conference with communion and we will do that in April.
The older I get the more special I see the communion celebration. You will notice that I said celebrate, for that is what communion is. Yes, there is the rememberance of his suffering and death. That is part of the sacrament, but there is also the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, for it is only in His resurrection that we “break the power of cancelled sin” (to quote John Wesley’s famous hymn) and we also celebrate that Christ will be returning for His church, for he commanded us to celebrate the Lord’s Table in remembrance of Him until the day of His returning.
I also see the importance of elevating this sacrament to a more regular observance. I would like to see us celebrate it once a month. Some say that to observe this sacrement too often diminishes its sacredness, but do we say that about singing (what if we only sung to God in worship every three months) or prayer or preaching. Just because we participate in these “means of grace” on a regular basis doesn’t diminish their sacredness. That is the reason, special planning goes into communion services. Communion isn’t just tacked on at the end, but becomes a part of the whole service — it is part of the whole worship time.
Someone once asked John Wesley how often we should participate? Here is his answer: “no man can have any pretense to Christian piety, who does not receive it (not once a month, but) as often as he can.” He averaged taking communion once every four or five days. He urged “frequent” communion, rooting such reception in a spirit of “constant” communion that keeps one’s heart perpetually before God. When Methodism became a denomination in North America, he exhorted the clergy to celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday. That’s why I would like to see us observe it once a month.
Let me bring up one more point. Some have asked, “open or closed” communion. Wesleyans have an open communion — Ken Schenck writes, “All we require is that the person be seeking God, ‘you who do earnestly repent of your sin.'” Anyone who is a believer is allowed to participate, including our students.
Communion is an important part of our worship and our worship is important to God.