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how do you take communion?

Sorry for the posting absence. I'm currently enjoying a week of volunteering at Camp Aldersgate, and internet connections are tricky at best!

This past Sunday we celebrated communion in my church, and I was mulling over how people take communion - and I don't mean whether at the rail or in pew or in lines. I mean this: we most often have communion by intinction at St. Paul's, and I've notice people have a 'way' they take their bread. Some take a tiny piece so small that they can barely find any to dip in the cup. Others mean to take a small piece, but accidentally get a big piece, and then are embarrassed. Others take a big soft piece from the center, and seem to enjoy it. And still others always go for a piece of crust, with gusto. Do you have a favorite way?

I think that there must be a great metaphor somewhere in this - a metaphor for how we receive God's grace, or something. Do we receive grace timidly? Boldly? Fearful we've accidentally taken to much? With gusto? Joy?

Comments

Anonymous said…
Elizabeth,

At my "home" UMC in Memphis, we for years always had communion with those little square crackers and the juice in the little plastic cups. Every once in a while the pastor would throw a curve and we'd use loaf bread and serve by intinction. I had the same hangups. I was a teen and young adult, I was always afraid that I'd take too much bread. I think we used the little crackers for so long, people tried to tear the loaf bread the same size which was almost impossible to do. It was really funny to watch.

I have recently been taking communion at a Lutheran Church down the street from my office that has a noon service on Wednesday. The bread is not the hangup for me since they use the round wafers. What is my hangup is that I dip the waffer in the wine (not the Welch's that I am used to in my UMC by any means) by intinction, but I am about the only one. Everyone else drinks out the chalice.

I always feel like the rest of the Lutherans there are looking at me. Since I am a Methodist, I don't cross myself and I am about the only one that dips the wafer. They know I am not Lutheran and kid me about it in Christian fun.

Once they sang Charles Wesley's "Oh For a Thousand Tounges to Sing" in the slowest tempo I ever heard. It was exhausting to me just to sing the song that slow. After the service was over, I told them that "one day I'd teach them how to sing that song like a real Methodist. :-)"
Anonymous said…
Theologically, I prefer that someone hand me a piece of bread (and when I serve bread, I had people pieces) rather than asking me to rip, pinch, or take from the loaf--that way it symbolizes that God's grace is a gift we receive.

When I am forced to take my own bread, I take a big hunk, usually big enough that it requires two bites. That way I have some time to "chew on" what God is doing and what I am doing in the act of communion. When I serve bread, I like to give people bigger hunks than they might prefer for similar reasons.
Jason D. Moore said…
I never really paid much attention to it, actually. I remember in college we would have communion every Sunday at our contemporary service and a couple of the others and I would hang around afterwards and finish off the elements - which could certainly say something about wanting as much of God's grace as I could get, I suppose.

I've never been too worried about taking too much nor have I gotten embarrassed when I ended up with a huge chunk - I don't think I've ever seen the loaf run out (and I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to the feeding of the 5,000).

More often than not, I've taken the bread myself and haven't been handed a piece - and I'm not sure how many people would make the connection of it being a gift unless it was said. I would say that my preference has been to use a common loaf and chalice than the cut up bread or wafers and the little "holy shot glasses" because it better symbolizes the oneness of the community: instead of everyone simply doing the same thing, they are sharing in the whole. There's also something about feeding each other that I like. I have no problem with a pastor (alone or with a steward) serving, but when we feed each other it helps to reinforce that we are all ministers to each other and we are there not only to be served but to serve as well.

The communal carries more meaning than the sacrificial for me anyway.
Anonymous said…
Hi Beth, first of all I have to admit that the word "intinction" is a new one to me and I haven't looked it up yet! However, I like it when the whole piece of home baked crusty loaf is passed round and each pulls off a hefty chuck including crust. The Proestant in me likes to make sure to chew the bread!
Theresa Coleman said…
I agree theologically with lgs -- in fact I feel STRONGLY about it. It should be torn by the minister/server from the loaf and then placed in open empty hands because it is a free gift of God's grace. The person should never have to rip it off themselves. Nor should it be placed on a passive tongue by a server -- we accept the gift gratefully and willing eat it to be nourished -- it is not a gift to be taken passively.

And touch is important. A light touch of the hand when receiving the bread and the wine. To remind that we are all in this together and we are all a part of the body.
Beth Quick said…
thanks for your responses. i think i will try tearing the bread for the congregants next time - this is how it was done at my seminary chapel, and though it threw me off at first (i'd never seen this done) i came to enjoy it. i'll let you know how the church responds! ;)
Scott said…
Generally speaking I think the server should hand people the bread... but I am not legalistic about it. There are occassions when I have served Communion adn people have torn off their own bread. I always give people a bigger piece than they would normally get themselves. It's too sad watching people dip a teeny tiny piece of bread, getting juice all over their fingers...

There are numerous ways to serve Communion. It's almost funny how Methodist are so laid back about some things, but legalistic about others.

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