For most of my 47 years as a pastor, the almost universal practice in most Christian denominations has been the celebration of World Communion Sunday every first Sunday in October. Not so much in recent years.
The tradition was started in 1930 by Hugh Thomson Kerr, a Presbyterian pastor whose goal was to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity in which each congregation felt a sense of interconnectedness with one another. It was then adopted throughout its denomination and then spread to other denominations.
World Communion Sunday offered the faithful and congregations a unique opportunity to experience Holy Communion in the context of the global community of faith. This special day became a time when Christians of all cultures could together break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm that Christ was the head of the church.
There was room for everyone at the table that day, each remembering that they were all part of one body of believers.
I still cherish the memories of my experiences in the small country church where I grew up knowing that it was also shared by others worshiping in a large cathedral or in a primitive earthen hut, at an outdoor table on top of a hill or in a storefront gathering place.
Christians celebrate Holy Communion in as many ways as there are congregations, whether sacramental or not, liturgical or non-liturgical, confessional or non-confessional in faith and practice. But, the word “Eucharist” still carries the same universal definition – “thanksgiving!” Fortunately, World Communion Sunday can be both a deep worship experience and a time to learn about the wider faith community.
Why is World Communion Sunday especially necessary now? Because so many divisions have threatened national unity and world unity to the point of destroying all kinds of unity! There are so many divides to bridge – racial divides, social divides, economic divides, political divides, theological divides, and most importantly now, even corona-viral divides!
Would it not be to all of us to come together at the Lord’s table to share one bread and one body as a holy Catholic and apostolic Church? Such an annual gathering of world fellowship has the potential to teach us that this common experience makes us all equal as recipients of a common sacred gift!
Changing only two letters, the word “fellowship” gives the word “community” – the coming together of those who discover something “in common” which leads to “unity!” Be the change!
Whatever your congregation’s practice on the first Sunday in October, or any Sunday in any month, commit to reinventing community and recreating peace and unity with all Christians and all. people all over the world that God has given us to share!
And on the first Sunday in October, also think and pray for the global vaccination!
Note: EPLN contributor Pastor Rod Anderson sits on the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the longtime former senior pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you would like to contribute to a faith column for Eden Prairie Local News, send an email [email protected].
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