The United Church of Canada Website states that:
Communion is served numerous times a year in United Churches, but not every Sunday. Participation is open to all people attending the service, but is not mandatory.
This says so much to me about being part of the United Church. Those important elements are offered and they are yours for the taking. On the other hand, should you decide not to participate you will not be judged. The openness about this sacrament in our church is heart-warming.
There are two special occasions when I received communion that have become fixed in my memory. The first image that comes to mind is one that is far less formal than the serving to fellow congregants row by row on a Sunday morning. Both of the occasions that resonate with me had the feeling of a small group around the table. The first was a day of celebration for Sunday School teachers at Bell’s Corner’s United Church. About twenty of us gathered together in a multi-purpose room and sat in a large circle. The assistant minister engaged us in a casual exchange of thanks for all the blessings we saw in our church community. We discussed how we felt the spirit of Christ was alive within us. This happened more than 30 years ago, but the feeling of wholeness has stayed with me. When we had completed our discussion, we broke into smaller groups and a member was appointed to offer each of us the simple communion elements: breaking a piece from a loaf of bread and drinking from a shared cup of wine (well, truly, it was grape juice). For me, the connection with my fellow teachers in that moment was strong. I think each of us could understand the bond between the disciples who shared such meals on a regular basis with Jesus.
Oddly enough, the second experience took place many years later in that very same multi-purpose room at BCUC with members of Knox United Church. We were then, as now, examining how we felt Knox United should move forward. In this friendly environment, removed from our own building, a group of about 30 people had gathered to brainstorm ideas for the future. We took part in a number of activities designed to focus our thinking, enjoyed a delicious lunch, created our plan of action and ended the day sealing our commitment through communion. This communion, like the previous one, was carried out in small groups with one of our own sharing the elements. I don’t think anyone left the room with dry eyes.
I would like to state clearly that this is no way a negative reflection on traditional communion; rather, it is a call for ideas. We would like to keep young people in our church engaged. This kind of communion service could be one of many options. Once in a while, would you like to experience communion in a non-traditional format? Have you been at services where the observation of communion touched you in a special way? Please send us your thoughts and ideas!