Monday, April 03, 2006

A beautiful service: a moment of communion with Our Lord

Yesterday (Sunday, April 2), our congregation celebrated the Lord's Supper, or Communion. In the past, this service, held each month in my church, has seemed rushed--more of an afterthought than the focus of our worship. And there are reasons for this, both historical and local. Other things have to be done during the service. We can't always devote the entire worship time to preparing and celebrating Communion.

But still . . . .

Yesterday morning, the service seemed different. It moved a just a little more slowly than usual, and it used, perhaps, just a bit more of the traditional wording. It seemed very different to me, in a good sense. I felt more drawn into the sacrament, and more in harmony with the minister's message.

Granted, I've been part of a Wednesday small-group class looking at issues of how the Eucharist is celebrated in our denomination, so perhaps I was just more in tune with what was happening. The whole issue is on my mind, and I'm currently reading about Communion, specifically This Holy Mystery. What interested me was how small changes can make a big difference in the way a service is experienced. Probably, very little actually changed. Maybe nothing at all changed. But my reaction was much more satisfying.

I'm thinking about this issue because of church-membership figures that show many denominaitons--mine included--are losing people in large numbers. (See the recent post on the Wesley Blog, linked at the right.) It seems logical that more meaningful services would draw more people back to worship.

Of course, I'm not typical of the average church member, and my particular likes or dislikes can't be the basis of church policy. But I'm wondering how to identify changes--perhaps some of them quite small--that would make our worship services more welcoming and more meaningful. I want to experience more Communions like the one yesterday.

Any thoughts?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith


Blogger Andrew Harnack said...

I quite agree. This past Sunday's Communion came to us as a deeper expression of Christ's presence. It seems to me that our fuller use of the UMH liturgy worked as a strong articulation of the church's understanding of the Sacrament. We moved from confession of our sin to a straight-forward declaration of forgivess and then on to strong expression of corporate gratitude in the Great Thanksgiving. Pastor's sermon fit in well. Then too things were not rushed; and although we were dismissed fifteen minutes later than usual, all was fine. If somehow we think we need to complete the Eucharistic celebration within an hour, we might try to do a few liturgical events simultaneously; perhaps the choir might sing during communion; or perhaps the choir might help us sing hymns during communion; perhaps we might simply place the offering baskets at the door forget about passing them around. But these are small matters when compared to the reflective way we were able to think about the Gospel and enter communion (however we believe it to be) with Christ and one another. I wonder if a regular mid-weekly (Wednesday noon?) celebration of Holy Communion might give us opportunities to work out various liturgical practices that after considerable thought might be introduced into Sunday worship.

By the way, I think I was a bit harsh with the new woman in Bible class. My teaching style bothered me deeply as I reflected back on how things went. I hope she will return.

Tuesday, 04 April, 2006  

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