On the first Sunday of October, increasing numbers of churches participate in World Communion Sunday, a time when Christians everywhere celebrate what it means to belong to "the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints." Indeed, the church is the one body of Christ, our head. In Holy Communion, we most deeply celebrate our oneness in Christ.
Articles in this issue:
Bo Meredith could have made commercials for Skippy peanut butter. He was the penultimate darling little boy—round face, apple cheeks, floppy red hair, and a glorious Lone Ranger's mask of rusty freckles ear to ear. Terry, his mother, the daughter of a Lutheran preacher from Indiana, had been coming to Fort Anderson Church off and on for six months. Bo's father wasn't a believer, she'd said, and from her sketchy descriptions, Pastor Jack had developed the sense that the marriage wasn't in great shape.
Shortly after I made public profession of faith in the Christian Reformed Church I grew up in, several members of our church (including our youth group and my parents) attended a Roman Catholic folk mass in our town. A group of priests had been attending a lecture series in our church, and they, in response to our hospitable welcome, invited us to worship with them. Towards the end of the service, everyone was invited to come forward to receive the Eucharist.
A visitor to our seminary chapel once asked me to show him the "sign language" I used when presiding at the Lord's Supper. He thought that it made the service "dramatic," but was confused that I gestured throughout the course of the eucharistic prayer, since during prayer eyes were to be closed and heads bowed.
On occasion I have attended churches where much of the liturgy was sung, allowing the congregation to become more active participants in their worship. I thought that we had been missing out on a rich worship experience by not having this kind of service at Plymouth Heights. After discussions with our preaching pastor and liturgy committee, I was encouraged to develop such a service.
The setting was a campfire on a summer night at church camp. A young lady who had not spoken a single word all week stood up and haltingly proclaimed, "I love Jesus." That was twenty years ago, but I still remember it as the moment I realized that this child (and many others like her), so loved by God, would never be able to join us at the table to celebrate our Lord's Supper. Because of her mental impairments, she would not be able to meet our expectations for those who could make profession of faith and be welcomed to the table.
There is a telling soliloquy in Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins that neatly sums up my concern in this article. Dr. Thomas More, Percy's Catholic protagonist, is having some conflict with his Protestant wife, Ellen, on matters of religious practice.
During the past generation, a wealth of new worship songs have been written. Many were inspired by the reforms of Vatican II during the 1960s, when the Roman Catholic Church translated their liturgy into the vernacular and began to encourage congregational singing. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of those new songs assume both Word and Table every Sunday. Also, since most Protestant churches celebrate the Lord's Supper more frequently than they did a generation ago, most hymnal sections on the Lord's Supper have steadily increased in size.
Every June issue of Reformed Worship is a theme issue, and every year the Reformed Worship staff and editorial council weigh various themes. Some of our theme issues have dealt with "hot button" topics of our time. Last year, when the RW editorial council discussed what the next theme issue should be, the Lord's Supper was clearly at the top of the list.
PRAISE TEAMS OR CHURCH BANDS?