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Holy Communion


Holy Communion (con't.)

The Holy Communion Table

The people and leaders gather around the elements for Holy Communion.  The place where the elements are set is the Holy Communion table.

In our churches, the Communion table is to be placed in such a way that the presider is able to stand behind it, facing the people, and the people can visually if not physically gather around it.

The Communion Elements

In accordance with the words of Christ and Christian tradition, the church uses bread and wine in celebrations of Holy Communion.

It is appropriate that the bread eaten in Holy Communion both look and taste like bread.  The use of a whole loaf best signifies the unity of the church as the body of Christ and, when it is broken and shared, our fellowship in that body.  The loaf should be plain bread (no frostings, nuts, raisins, artificial coloring, or other additions).  Leavened or unleavened bread is equally acceptable.  The loaf broken at the Table is to be the bread distributed to the people.  As appropriate to the dignity of the occasion, care should be taken to avoid excessive crumbling of the bread and to remove large pieces that fall to the floor.

The juice of the red grape in a common cup represents the churchís covenant with Christ, established through his atoning death and fulfills Christís commands at the Last Supper.  Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many Protestant denominations have always used wine in the Eucharist.  During the movement against beverage alcohol in the late nineteenth century, the predecessor bodies of The United Methodist Church turned to the use of unfermented grape juice.  This continues to be the position of the denomination (BOR; page 838).  (The term wine is used in this document because of its biblical and historical antecedents, although United Methodists customarily serve unfermented grape juice in Holy Communion.)

The use of a common cup dates back to the Last Supper where Jesus takes a single cup of wine, blesses it, and gives it to the disciples.  It is a powerful symbol of the unity of the body of Christ gathered at the Lordís Table.  A single cup or chalice may be used for intinction Ė dipping the bread into the wine Ė or for drinking.  The use of a common chalice best represents Christian unity, but individual cups are used in many congregations.  In these situations, unity can be effectively symbolized if each personís cup is filled from a common pouring chalice.

The consecrated elements are to be treated with reverent respect and appreciation as gifts of Godís creation that have, in the words of the Great Thanksgiving, become ďfor us the body and blood of ChristĒ (UMH; page 10).  The practice of consecrating elements ahead of time for the convenience of the pastor not having to go to small or remote congregations, weekend camps, or other such occasions is inappropriate and contrary to our historic doctrine and understanding of how Godís grace is made available in the sacrament (Article XVIII, The Articles of Religion, BOD; page 64).  If authorized leadership is not available for celebrating the Lordís Supper, other worship services such as love feasts, agape meals, or baptismal reaffirmations are valid alternatives that avoid misuse of Communion elements.

The leftover consecrated elements of bread and wine are used for distribution to the sick and others who wish to commune but are unable to attend congregational worship.  If any bread and wine remain, they should always be disposed of by (1) the pastor and/or others at the pastorís direction consuming them in a reverent manner following the service; (2) returning them to the earth by pouring (2 Samuel 23:16), burying, scattering, or burning.

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Last revised on 25 October 2008