How Often to Gather at the Table, or Frequency of Communion

In the “What should be in a sermon?” thread, a tangent arose that started with the observation that opinions about length of the sermon/homily might depend in part on whether the sermon/homily is in the context of a Eucharistic service or not, with the additional observation that in some churches the Eucharist is celebrated (at least) weekly, while in others celebration is more infrequent. And there were understandable assumptions about the frequency in other traditions. The specific relevant posts in that thread were these:
Gee D wrote: »
Nick Tamen wrote: »
From the standpoint of my particular stream of Christian tradition, the purpose of the sermon is to proclaim the Gospel and equip the church by exploring what God might be saying, through the Scripture reading(s), to God’s people gathered in a particular place in a particular time. A sermon should be firmly grounded in the text, while speaking to the life and present experiences of the congregation and of its wider communities, including the nation and world.
. . .

The big difference, of course, is that we would see that taking 10 minutes or so in a Eucharist, whereas you're probably looking at a much longer time which may well not be in a Eucharist but the Presbyterian equivalent of Morning or Evening Prayer (I'm thinking back to my father's worship pattern in the Presbyterian church here).
Nick Tamen wrote: »
Gee D wrote: »
The big difference, of course, is that we would see that taking 10 minutes or so in a Eucharist, whereas you're probably looking at a much longer time which may well not be in a Eucharist but the Presbyterian equivalent of Morning or Evening Prayer (I'm thinking back to my father's worship pattern in the Presbyterian church here).
A tangent, but fwiw: Among my tribe of American Presbyterians, I’m generally looking at ≈20 minutes, in either a Eucharist or the equivalent of ante-communion. Our “standard” service—the Service for the Lord’s Day—is by design and default a Communion service. This was part of what came out of the Vatican II-era liturgical renewal for us: an order that follows the traditional Western liturgical form and that presents celebration of the Eucharist, and therefore weekly Communion, as the norm, and omission (rather than addition) of Communion as the departure from the norm.
Gee D wrote: »
Nick Tamen wrote: »
A tangent, but fwiw: Among my tribe of American Presbyterians, I’m generally looking at ≈20 minutes, in either a Eucharist or the equivalent of ante-communion. Our “standard” service—the Service for the Lord’s Day—is by design and default a Communion service. This was part of what came out of the Vatican II-era liturgical renewal for us: an order that follows the traditional Western liturgical form and that presents celebration of the Eucharist, and therefore weekly Communion, as the norm, and omission (rather than addition) of Communion as the departure from the norm.

That's very different to the Presbyterian practice as it was here when I was but a lad. I was raised Anglican, but my father was Presbyterian as was my school. Quarterly communion plus Christmas and Easter was then the rule. I assume that that practice remains with those Presbyterians who did not join the Uniting Church 45 or so years ago.

As an aside, when Dlet was at school, you could see that the Uniting Church was developing its own ethos, teaching and practice, not being a grouping of its constituent congregations.
Gee D wrote: »
Nick Tamen wrote: »
A tangent, but fwiw: Among my tribe of American Presbyterians, I’m generally looking at ≈20 minutes, in either a Eucharist or the equivalent of ante-communion. Our “standard” service—the Service for the Lord’s Day—is by design and default a Communion service. This was part of what came out of the Vatican II-era liturgical renewal for us: an order that follows the traditional Western liturgical form and that presents celebration of the Eucharist, and therefore weekly Communion, as the norm, and omission (rather than addition) of Communion as the departure from the norm.

Quarterly communion plus Christmas and Easter was then the rule.
Presbyterians in Scotland were leary of celebrating Christmas (and possibly Easter, I'm not sure), so here the traditional pattern was quarterly, though locally there has been in recent years an additional celebration on Maundy Thursday. I understand that in new fangled modern places in the central belt they might even have gone as far as monthly.
Gee D wrote: »
Thanks - surprising how the same church with many of the same members could arrive at different practices in different places.
I thought this might be a tangent worth discussing, at least a little more, but probably not in the sermon thread. Of course, the issue of frequency of Communion is a non-issue for Roman (or Eastern Rite) Catholics, the Orthodox and Christian churches/Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ.

But in my lifetime and in my corner of the world, I’ve seen the Episcopal Church (post-1979 Prayerbook) move from monthly Holy Communion to weekly Eucharist (per old and new Prayerbook terms), and Morning Prayer seems to have all but disappeared. (At least, that was the case until Covid.) I’ve seen a similar move to weekly Communion among Lutherans, at least of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America variety; I’m not as familiar with the pattern in other American Lutheran bodies. And I’ve seen my own Presbyterians move from quarterly Communion to (typically) monthly, and sometimes more often. I can say more about that in a follow-up post.

So what is the case in your particular denomination or tradition, assuming it’s not one where (at least) weekly Communion has been the norm from the start? What have you seen change, and why has it changed? Are changes still in process? Are there moves, other than those driven by necessity because of Covid, to less frequent Communion anywhere?

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Comments

  • Since practice among Presbyterians was what gave rise to the tangent, here is what has happened among American Presbyterians, particularly in what is now the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I’m well aware that our experience may not mirror what has happened among Presbyterians elsewhere. (And, of course, Covid has disrupted things.)

    It’s pretty widely known that Calvin strongly favored weekly Communion—specifically a weekly service of Word and Sacrament—and that the Genevan magistrates were unwilling to go along with him. The pushback came from the expectation that everyone would commune at every Communion service, compared to the pre-Reformation practice of weekly/daily Mass, but the average person receiving only once a year, during Easter. The magistrates thought it too much to go from receiving once a year to receiving every week. So compromise was reached in 1538—monthly Communion in every parish church, with the celebrations staggered so that Communion was celebrated in at least one Genevan church every Sunday, with that celebration being considered for all Genevans who desired to attend to do so. But apparently this was difficult to implement, and in 1541, the pattern of quarterly communion in each parish, staggered so that there was at least one celebration per month, was put in place “for the present.” And thus it remained, and the quarterly pattern was inherited by subsequent generations, despite Calvin’s statement that “I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.”

    Unlike Reformed churches on the European continent, American Presbyterian churches did not use authorized liturgies, but instead adhered to the Westminster Directory for Public Worship, which some have described as a liturgy of rubrics only. The Directory provided:
    The communion, or supper of the Lord, is frequently to be celebrated; but how often, may be considered and determined by the ministers, and other church-governors of each congregation, as they shall find most convenient for the comfort and edification of the people committed to their charge.
    American edits to the Directory codified the requirement of quarterly Communion.

    In 1906, the first book of (voluntary) liturgy was published by American Presbyterians—The Book of Common Worship. It was followed by revisions in 1932 and 1946. All three editions presented a pattern of morning and evening services that culminated in the sermon, and provided“stand-alone” order for Communions that could be “plugged in” after the sermon as needed.

    In the mid-1950s, work on a new revision was begun. This was, of course, a time of significant ecumenical liturgical movement and activity, with Vatican II on the horizon. And American Presbyterians had begun to pay renewed attention to what Calvin had said about the Eucharist. One of the first things the committee recommended was complete revision of the Directory, which had remained largely unchanged from the Westminster Directory. The Directory was revised—technically, the Directories, as this was a parallel process in the old “northern” and “southern” churches, with a joint committee preparing the revision to the Book of Common Worship. The Directories were revised, and the new liturgical book, called The Worshipbook—Services, was published in 1970. Two years later, it was published as a pew book/hymnal as The Worshipbook—Services and Hymns.

    The Worshipbook did not gain widespread as a pew book/hymnal, but it proved to be very influential among ministers and in places like seminaries. Two related contributions of The Worshipbook (and revised Directories, particularly that of the “northern” church) proved to have a lasting impact:
    • There was an underlying presumption that Communion every Sunday was the norm, and that a Sunday without Communion was the deviation from the norm; and
    • The pattern Sunday liturgy—called “the Service for the Lord’s Day”—was a Eucharistic service, in the pattern of the Western Eucharistic liturgy, with the deviation being found in instructions for what to do “if the Lord’s Supper is not celebrated.”
    Within a few decades, the Service for the Lord’s Day was pretty firmly established as the normal pattern for Sunday worship in what became, in 1983, the PC(USA). It’s what it set forth in the Directory for Worship and the 1993 and 2018 revisions of the Book of Common Worship, and it’s what I would expect to encounter in a typical PC(USA) church. And by the early 1990s, the large majority of PC(USA) congregations had moved from quarterly Communion to monthly Communion—sometimes on the first Sunday of the month and some places celebrating Communion on significant days in the liturgical calendar and filling in gaps to ensure Communion at least once a month. And some congregations had (or have since) moved to weekly Communion, perhaps at the main service, perhaps at an early service or perhaps at an earlier service one week and a later service another week. (Some other congregations have moved to “occasional” weekly Communion, such as every Sunday of Easter.) Seminaries had established a pattern of weekly Communion as well, setting an example for future ministers.

    More frequent Communion continues to be encouraged in a variety of ways. The Directory for Worship presents weekly celebration as the norm and quarterly celebration as the minimum:
    The Lord’s Supper shall be celebrated as a regular part of the Service for the Lord’s Day, preceded by the proclamation of the Word, in the gathering of the people of God. When local circumstances call for the Lord’s Supper to be celebrated less frequently, the session may approve other schedules for celebration, in no case less than quarterly. If the Lord’s Supper is celebrated less frequently than on each Lord’s Day, public notice is to be given at least one week in advance so that all may prepare to receive the Sacrament.

    Well, I’ve been pretty long winded. Sorry. But that’s how we got to where we are, and I hope it’s interesting to someone to see how we arrived at our current, and different compared to Presbyterians elsewhere, practice. I sometimes have the sense that we’re running a bit behind the (American) Episcopalians and the Lutherans, but I hope we’ll eventually end up where they have, and where Calvin wanted us to end up.

  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited September 10
    Within our diocese it depends where you came from as to how often you have Communion. Five congregations have monthly communion with three having Ante-Communion on the other Sundays and two Morning Prayer. One church has communion twice a month. Four have weekly communion, though in the case of one of those three they have two services and alternate HC/MP in the morning, and EP/HC in the evening. A lot depends in my corner of the universe as to where you come from as the former Reformed Churches tend to be monthly, and the former Episcopal congregations weekly, unless they got out a long time ago.

    There's no discernable pattern to who is increasing or decreasing frequency. I think one of the weekly churches may go fortnightly because a lot of their congregation like MP, and they only had weekly Communion because their former bishop pushed the issue.
  • LCMS (Lutheran) services generally have communion either weekly or twice a month, either on first-and-third or on second-and-fourth, plus specials (Maundy Thursday etc.) A lot of the timing for us is purely practical--there was a long period when our congregations were served by circuit riders, and some still are, in fact. So you have communion when you can get an authorized person to celebrate.

    This is not to say that one absolutely MUST have an ordained pastor, but it is heavily heavily heavily preferred on account of good order and all that. But theologically speaking, a congregation left too long without a pastor is supposed to appoint one from among themselves, and a desert island Lutheran could handle the celebration on the basis of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. I personally think our denomination missed a huge opportunity to remind everybody about this during the early days of the pandemic, when we were locked down so hard and people were missing the sacrament. According to our understanding people could have been having family communion and so forth with no problems at all, much the way we handle emergency baptisms.

    Maybe we'll get it right next pandemic (shudder). Emergencies where one needs communion and can't either wait a week or drive a few miles over are sort of few and far between.
  • Thanks, @pdr and @Lamb Chopped. pdr, I’ll admit I don’t know as much about frequency among American Reformed churches as I ought to.

    And LC, I find the Lutheran approach you describe to “emergency” Communion, particularly the “lone” Communion of the “desert island Lutheran,” interesting. I’ve rarely if ever heard that approach among the Reformed/Presbyterians. I’m not sure I could say it’s clearly against our theology, never having heard it discussed to start with that I can recall. But I can’t imagine it’d be encouraged in any way, as the sacraments being celebrations of the church—not of individuals or of families or “subsets,” for want of a better word, of the church—is central to our understanding.

    The Communion issue debated in my tribe, particularly at the start of Covidtide, was that of virtual Communion—whether people gathering the elements at home and communing while watching the streamed service (presumably live) was consistent with our theology.

  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Being of the Anglo-Carflick Perswasion, Our Place has (mostly) had a daily celebration of the Mass/Eucharist, except perhaps during vacancies/interregna when an Holy Priest has not always been available.

    After Father F**kwit left in early 2017, we managed only one weekday Mass, with the gracious assistance of the evangelical FatherHelpingUsOut (a retired Church Army captain, as well as an Holy Priest). Sundays were mostly covered - our churchwarden was very good at finding retired and willing clergy - but there were one or two occasions when my fellow-Reader or I had to step in with *Communion by Extension*, using the Reserved Sacrament. Madam Sacristan always ensures that there are enough consecrated hosts in the aumbry to cope with at least one Sunday service, just in case...

    There was never any question AFAIK of not having Communion in some form or another on a Sunday, the principle being that the Faithful expect to receive the Sacrament, and come to church prepared to do just that.

    Today, FatherInCharge maintains a daily Mass, except if he's away for a few days during the week (in which case we're reduced to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, thanks to the aforementioned FatherHelpingUsOut, and one or two other local clergy).
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Yes RCs have always had daily Masses. But in my youth when it was in Latin there were other services in the vernacular - benediction, novenas, public recitations of the rosary that enabled people to worship in their own language. And other sacraments were celebrated as stand-alone services - baptisms and confirmation in particular. But these are now very often brought into Masses.
    Since Vat 2 these other services have pretty much disappeared from mainstream parishes, and the worship found is generally pretty much Mass or nothing. Having said that, Stations of the Cross survive.
  • What @Bishops Finger describes seems like what I’d expect in an Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, BF. But I’m curious: What would one expect in a non-Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, say a con-evo parish?

    And interesting, @Alan29, about the disappearance of other services. Similar to disappearance of Morning Prayer in the Episcopal Church perhaps?

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    What @Bishops Finger describes seems like what I’d expect in an Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, BF. But I’m curious: What would one expect in a non-Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, say a con-evo parish?

    And interesting, @Alan29, about the disappearance of other services. Similar to disappearance of Morning Prayer in the Episcopal Church perhaps?

    Well, I can't speak for any con-evo C of E churches, as there are none in this area AFAIK.

    Pre-Covid, our local charismatic-evo Place used to alternate Holy Communion between the 1030am and 630pm services on Sundays, so that HC was celebrated in church at some point every Sunday, and they also had a mid-week HC every Wednesday. Our other local parishes are mostly MOTR, with Communion every Sunday and one mid-week service. The old 8am Communion seems to have almost entirely disappeared.

    Our Place does, in fact, still have 1662 Prayer Book Mattins (as a said service) every Sunday, an hour before the Parish Mass. Usual attendance is 2. We also have Franciscan Evening Prayer (followed by Benediction) on Sundays, and this can sometimes have an attendance of 6-8.
  • Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.
  • Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.

    I think the charismatic-evo Place to which I've referred is doing much the same, at least in not having a weekly Sunday evening service in the church. I don't know how this affects their Communion services, but they may be down to just one a month on a Sunday morning (and probably special occasions, too).

    They are AFAIK exploring ways of *doing church* perhaps a bit differently post-Plague.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Thanks, @pdr and @Lamb Chopped. pdr, I’ll admit I don’t know as much about frequency among American Reformed churches as I ought to.

    And LC, I find the Lutheran approach you describe to “emergency” Communion, particularly the “lone” Communion of the “desert island Lutheran,” interesting. I’ve rarely if ever heard that approach among the Reformed/Presbyterians. I’m not sure I could say it’s clearly against our theology, never having heard it discussed to start with that I can recall. But I can’t imagine it’d be encouraged in any way, as the sacraments being celebrations of the church—not of individuals or of families or “subsets,” for want of a better word, of the church—is central to our understanding.

    The Communion issue debated in my tribe, particularly at the start of Covidtide, was that of virtual Communion—whether people gathering the elements at home and communing while watching the streamed service (presumably live) was consistent with our theology.

    I dunno about virtual communion--I think we'd much prefer to have one person actually present with the elements and the other people handle it, even if it were a group as small as two.* That's not to say that it couldn't be done while coordinated by Zoom, but (and all this is speculative, so don't put much weight on it, okay?) since the Lord's Supper is among many other things a touchpoint for ultimate Reality, it seems ... preferable? ... to opt for the non-virtual whenever it's possible.

    On the doctrine I mentioned (priesthood of all believers)--

    We hold that all Christians are, by virtue of their baptism**, priests to God our Father and fully endowed with whatever authority is necessary to do such things as baptizing, celebrating communion, forgiving sins, and so forth. For the sake of good order (which Germanic-derived Lutherans tend to put way, WAY up there), we normally don't exercise such powers on an individual level, but rather delegate them to one or more individuals, normally pastors, who are called by the congregation to serve them in this way. (You can see where things might head if people started popping off on their own. Dorito communion and baptism via fire hose would be the least of it.) But in an emergency, any Christian may baptize, forgive, commune, etc.

    Of course, in a time of long lockdown, a lot of people are going to be faced with the choice between forgoing communion altogether or doing it themselves. And it's going to be a judgment call on which to go for. I personally wish our denomination had just had the courage of its convictions and sent out a message reminding folks of this power, rather than leaving so many families in the dark. It's not like everybody remembers what they were taught all those years ago in confirmation class!

    It was rather in the forefront of my mind, however, being a missionary and having seen what happened to the Russian Lutheran church during the Soviet years, when some of them went for forty years or more without communion and were in absolute tears when our people finally got in and celebrated communion for them. It was heartbreaking. You don't want to put more burden on anybody in that case, but I so much wish they had just appointed pastors when their own were killed or jailed, and gotten on with it, rather than going through so much unnecessary suffering. They had the right. But they had apparently forgotten....

    Lockdown would have been a lovely time to push the lesson home to our U.S. members, at least. Ah, missed chances.

    * What about the person in lockdown alone, can they have/do communion? We too feel strongly that the Lord's Supper is meant for the church-as-a-body, but have no rulings that I know of that lay out just where the line might be in terms of "your group is too small." Again, given God's generosity, and the fact that a single person is still a cell of the body of Christ, I think it would be all right. Though obviously preferable to gather with others if at all possible.

    ** Before somebody jumps all over me, baptism and faith are inextricably bound with one another in Lutheran theology, and I have a darkling suspicion that, even when the two are separated in time by years (as with me), it is one thing in the eyes of God, and so nothing for me to get het up about. If we had a person who wanted to celebrate communion in lockdown and was unbaptized though believing, we'd do the baptism first (good order and all that), but I think God has far less of a hissy fit about irregularities than most people do.

  • HeavenlyannieHeavenlyannie Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Our new frontiers church has had weekly communion at both Sunday morning services for several years but before it was only monthly. The local church decided that it was an important part of our being a family worshipping together and should be more regular. This summer we started a Sunday evening service with communion (whilst lockdown Zoom continued in the morning with virtual communion). The Sunday evening communion service will continue now we have stopped the morning Zoom; like BF’s local char-evo, we are experimenting with alternative forms of doing church in the morning to help people settle back into church and get to know each other again.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Thanks for the explanation, LC. FWIW, our understanding of the priesthood of all believers is similar if not the same. And we place perhaps higher emphasis on order, if that’s possible. As we often say, Presbyterians do it decently and in order.

    If pushed to flesh it out, I think we’d say that all baptized persons have the innate ability to preside at the sacraments but, as a matter of order, haven’t been authorized by the church to exercise that innate ability. And as I noted above, we’d say the sacraments are actions of the church (well, and actions of God through the church), so an individual shouldn’t act in the name of the church without authorization to do so. So emergency baptism by lay people, for example, simply isn’t a thing we do. (Though I agree we may be more hung up about these things than God is.)

    The … reticence? … I think we’d have about an individual Communion isn’t really related to the priesthood of all believers. It’s related to absence of the community. For centuries, we explicitly prohibited “private Masses.” When we did make concession for Communion with the sick or homebound, the requirement was, at a minimum, the sick person, the minister and at least one elder to represent the wider community. Now we have moved to at least 2 elders and/or deacons taking the elements from the service to the sick or homebound person as soon as possible, preferably the same day. Again, the idea is to emphasis the connection with the gathered community.

    I have heard of one instance of “individual Communion” among those of my tribe (which isn’t to say there haven’t been others I haven’t heard about). It was the case of a minister held hostage in the Middle East, so completely cut off from the gathered church. Technically, not in order. But no one argued.

    That same concern for the community, including the act of serving and receiving the elements, was at the heart of debates about virtual Communion. Our understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is that the Spirit makes Christ present to and spiritual food for the communicant. The prevailing view many places is that being virtually gathered rather than physically gathered doesn’t (can’t) prevent the Spirit from making Christ present to the communicant and drawing the gathered community together.

    And to be clear, no one thought virtual Communion was an ideal solution. It was agreed it was not ideal. The question was whether, under the very not ideal circumstances, it was permissible.

    Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.
    I’m reminded that the main Baptist church in the small town I grew up in had (and still has) a Sunday morning service, a Sunday evening Bible study service, and Wednesday evening prayer meeting (preceded by supper). That arrangement was and is very common in Southern Baptist churches around here, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. My memory is that baptisms happened at the Sunday evening service, and I think that’s when then Lord’s Supper was observed as well. Perhaps monthly?

  • I think we're perhaps closer theologically than I realized. Though Lutheranism has this very carefully hidden streak of wild freakiness that comes out on rare occasions to play, mostly when highly unusual circumstances have totally pushed us to the point of going confessional. Um, better translate that--it means more or less, "Here I stand, and y'all can fuck off if you want to give me any more shit about it, I've had enough for today."
  • In the Brethren, where I was raised, The Lord's Supper was held every Sunday and was the climax of the assembly meeting. I was always wondering when we would move into that part and whom of the baptised men would initiate it. I suppose I like that frequency because I was accustomed to it. My UCA has a monthly communion.

    When I joined a house church, it did not practice communion and were happy for me to start the practice. I took bread and wine and grape juice and found a variety of relevant Bible passages to use in preparation. I encouraged the others to lead the communion, but most others were reluctant. Maybe following a formula, apart from the words of institution, could have made it easier for someone to start. We were all-inclusive and the children and any visitors could share in the meal.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Thanks for the explanation, LC. FWIW, our understanding of the priesthood of all believers is similar if not the same. And we place perhaps higher emphasis on order, if that’s possible. As we often say, Presbyterians do it decently and in order.

    ... and preferably as a committee.
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    What @Bishops Finger describes seems like what I’d expect in an Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, BF. But I’m curious: What would one expect in a non-Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, say a con-evo parish?

    I think the average con-evo parish would tend to have it bi-weekly/monthly, the one I attended most recently did so bi-weekly, but also had two morning services over which communion would rotate, so it was effectively monthly to the average attendee.

    This is probably as much habit as anything else, as compared with the average Presbyterian church communion is less taught about, and my experience has been that the practice is thus less stable and thus prone to go in every direction bar a weekly communion (including house groups wanting to commune, the vicars wanting to commune unconfirmed children and so on).
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited September 11
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Thanks for the explanation, LC. FWIW, our understanding of the priesthood of all believers is similar if not the same. And we place perhaps higher emphasis on order, if that’s possible. As we often say, Presbyterians do it decently and in order.

    ... and preferably as a committee.
    Yep. We had three ministers at our wedding, and friends joked that we were married in true Presbyterian style—by committee.

  • Three? That's not a proper committee!
  • Hehe - I was once told that a proper committee is made up of two people, one of whom is permanently absent...
  • Three? That's not a proper committee!

    That depends on how capable the three are of talking at cross-purposes.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Thanks, @pdr and @Lamb Chopped. pdr, I’ll admit I don’t know as much about frequency among American Reformed churches as I ought to.

    And LC, I find the Lutheran approach you describe to “emergency” Communion, particularly the “lone” Communion of the “desert island Lutheran,” interesting. I’ve rarely if ever heard that approach among the Reformed/Presbyterians. I’m not sure I could say it’s clearly against our theology, never having heard it discussed to start with that I can recall. But I can’t imagine it’d be encouraged in any way, as the sacraments being celebrations of the church—not of individuals or of families or “subsets,” for want of a better word, of the church—is central to our understanding.

    The Communion issue debated in my tribe, particularly at the start of Covidtide, was that of virtual Communion—whether people gathering the elements at home and communing while watching the streamed service (presumably live) was consistent with our theology.
    I can't say much either. I am familiar with the fact that the Reformers all believe that there should be frequent, preferably weekly, Communion at which some at least should receive every Lord's Day, and it all gets a bit foggy after that. I know that inertia and reform tended to meet in the middle at about four times a year, but, so far as the Mercersburg side of the old RCUS was concerned that was not enough, and they boldly stated their aim of eventually restoring weekly Communion, but got stuck at about monthly. However, there is a Philippist element to the old German Reformed that pops out of the woodwork at odd moments to confound "them as thinks they knows it all."

    I'm an Anglican with a leaning towards Lutheranism, so I am happiest with every other week, though when HC is celebrated I like a fair degree of solemnity - candles, chant, vestments. I am not kidding when I say I am both High and rather Protestant. We shared clergy a lot when I was growing up, so the usual pattern was that the Vicar did 10am and 11.30am, and the other church was covered by readers. The Vicar resented being turned into a Communion machine so he would celebrate six times a month, and take a couple MPs along the way. Present parish is a bit odd, but then it consists of one-third Episcopalians; one-third LCA Lutherans; one-third other.

  • Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.

    Our purely Baptist place also has monthly communion. Plus homily. The frequency seems pretty typical, the shortness of the sermon not so much.

    We never had an evening service, but many of the places I know who did also stopped theirs after Covid for similar reasons. There's only so much resource to go round.
  • Tubbs wrote: »
    Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.

    Our purely Baptist place also has monthly communion. Plus homily. The frequency seems pretty typical, the shortness of the sermon not so much.

    We never had an evening service, but many of the places I know who did also stopped theirs after Covid for similar reasons. There's only so much resource to go round.

    I know of some churches, who were struggling to maintain either an 8am Communion, or an evening service (or both), and who have now given them up, whilst rebuilding their core congregation post-Covid (yes, I realise it isn't over yet...).

    The parish next door to the one in which I live has two churches, and they have sensibly re-arranged their Sunday schedule to a 9am BCP Communion at the oldest church, followed by the 1030am Parish Communion at the newer building (which has the ever-useful car park and *hall* facilities!). They work in a *cluster* with two other parishes, and may well reintroduce the occasional joint evening service in due course.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    What @Bishops Finger describes seems like what I’d expect in an Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, BF. But I’m curious: What would one expect in a non-Anglo-Catholic CofE parish, say a con-evo parish?

    And interesting, @Alan29, about the disappearance of other services. Similar to disappearance of Morning Prayer in the Episcopal Church perhaps?

    In larger Evangelical Anglican churches (in England anyway) there are often several services on a Sunday. In that case churches will often alternate Communion between the services, maybe alongside a constant 8/8.30am early service (which is often BCP 1662). Often that service has a distinct congregation who *only* attend that service. In churches that have ditched that, there will often still be a very trad BCP communion midweek. Prayer Book Evangelical churches may be rarer these days but plenty of older Anglicans grew up with that being the normal form of Evangelical in the C of E.
  • Yes.

    *Prayer Book Evangelical* was indeed the nature of the church in which I was baptised, and which I later attended. Today, it is charismatic-evo, and has (or at least had, pre-Covid) something similar to the service pattern @Pomona describes.

    IIRC, though, Communion is/was only monthly at the main morning service, and monthly at the evening service. The old custom of tacking on a shortened Communion service after Morning or Evening Prayer seems to have died out in this particular parish, though it may survive elsewhere!
  • Thanks @Pomona.
    The parish next door to the one in which I live has two churches, and they have sensibly re-arranged their Sunday schedule to a 9am BCP Communion at the oldest church, followed by the 1030am Parish Communion at the newer building (which has the ever-useful car park and *hall* facilities!). They work in a *cluster* with two other parishes, and may well reintroduce the occasional joint evening service in due course.
    Okay, I’m afraid my ignorance is about to show. I get that “BCP Communion” means using the liturgy in the BCP instead of, say, Common Worship. But what particularly does “Parish Communion” signify?

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    Thanks @Pomona.
    The parish next door to the one in which I live has two churches, and they have sensibly re-arranged their Sunday schedule to a 9am BCP Communion at the oldest church, followed by the 1030am Parish Communion at the newer building (which has the ever-useful car park and *hall* facilities!). They work in a *cluster* with two other parishes, and may well reintroduce the occasional joint evening service in due course.
    Okay, I’m afraid my ignorance is about to show. I get that “BCP Communion” means using the liturgy in the BCP instead of, say, Common Worship. But what particularly does “Parish Communion” signify?

    Parish Communion usually just means "this is the main Sunday service and will have communion". In the dim and distant past it would have referred to the practice of the Parish Communion movement of making Holy Communion the "standard" Sunday morning service, displacing Mattins from that role.
  • Ah, makes sense. I didn’t think to link it to the Parish Communion movement. Thanks.
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited September 18
    Upon arriving in Scotland we took ourself off to the nearest church , it was a double move and in both places we alighted in a Church of Scotland building.

    Maybe someone can help me but am I correct in saying that the Church of Scotland does not generally sprinkle communion liberally throughout the year?
    Because in two years I think we had communion twice.

    Interestingly if this IS the case, the lure of the Scottish Episcopal Church is sounding louder with every passing year. And I had not realised this was so important ….for me. If not for Mr Alba
  • The Kirk varies widely, but I think the median is probably somewhere around monthly. Roughly quarterly is the "traditional" approach; weekly very much an outlier. And yes, the SEC takes a close to RC approach: "Got a priest? Aye we'll have a Mass". Even in places that lack a priest you will often find communion from the reserved sacrament.
  • Well, never thought I might consider affiliation to a denomination based on frequency of communion!

    Not really stopped to consider this before…
  • It's one of the hardest things for me about worshipping with the Church of Scotland. It feels like starvation rations when you're used to a feast.
  • I'd like daily communion, if I could manage my life so that I got to go to mass every day. TBQH, I don't think I could do that outside of a dedicated live-in community. Too many demands on my time. I bloody long for it, sometimes, and its not because I'm dissatisfied.

    I'd go as far as three times a day, but I don't think the Daily Office has communion at each of the Hours, and I'd have to check to see how many "sessions" the daily office involves.

    All this is beside the point of this thread, but I'm into communication.
  • On the occasions I've been staying close enough I've been delighted to join the morning prayer & eucharist at the SEC cathedral in Edinburgh.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    So how strongly does religious affiliation figure when it comes to communion?
    In times past I have (rarely) communicated in churches I don't belong to on a "Yeah, what they mean by it" basis. Pretty sure I wouldn't now except maybe in an Orthodox/Eastern church who would probably have "views" about giving communion to a Papist anyway.
  • I tend to adopt an "any port in a storm" approach. I'll seek out Episcopalians in the first instance, then probably Methodist, RC, CofS, anywhere that does things "decently and in good order".
  • Ethne AlbaEthne Alba Shipmate
    edited September 19
    For around forty years, the family moved for Church related reasons and maybe I never really considered the importance of communion at least once a month. And looking back, quite early on I would hunt out a mid week communion if I happened to be in a city or town.

    During the last twenty years I moved house for reasons utterly unrelated to a church. And my attendance / belonging to a church has been (usually ) for no other reason other than they were within walking distance. Communion was still monthly, or more frequent and looking back ? Yes I still escaped to a Cathedral or a midweek at a nearby church.

    Living in a village now…istm that I would need to be very perverse Not to attend our local. But this thread has helped me unpick the importance of communion to me. So my next step is to explore Scottish Episcopal Churches on a bus route , as I don’t drive.

    It might be that my evangelical background had an interesting approach to communion. It seemed to be about sharing a meal in community, so if not part of that community why would one want to receive the bread and wine with strangers? Obviously my younger self didn’t Totally agree, even then.

    There is more work to be done & Covid + my health= I m not on buses. But thank you to everyone here, you have helped clarify a few things.

  • Theoretically there should be no 'strangers' in a church
    We are all brothers and sisters and all part of the one community.
  • Our Baptist/Ecumenical church has monthly Communion. We formerly had a monthly Evening Communion (on a different Sunday) as well - a remnant of weekly evening services. This died during Covid and, when asked, those attending mostly said they came along out of a sense of duty, so we're not going to revive it.

    Hi I was watching the feed this morning... now using the mre communion packs effectively v single-serve sealed containers that we we had a good giggle out and call them communion ready to bless at the time?
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited September 19
    Just some notes from Up North in the UK, well just. What seems to be among traditionalist Anglo Catholics here is a loose sort of grouping by which there will be churches that provide communion at times other than 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning and daily communion but not every church will have it.

    The other is to note that my previous church (URC) when I left still had quarterly communion plus Easter. Personally, I have long been weekly by preference since university in the mid-1980s. I am now Sunday plus by preference. But to quote one elderly member on Sundays I am only come out at night.
  • I rather wish Our Place had a Sunday evening Mass (though FatherInCharge works hard enough already!), but the current programme is Franciscan Evening Prayer, plus Benediction.

    A simple said Mass, with brief homily, and maybe one hymn, is something I could cope with. The morning Mass - sometimes nearly one-and-a-half hours long - is just too much.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I rather wish Our Place had a Sunday evening Mass (though FatherInCharge works hard enough already!), but the current programme is Franciscan Evening Prayer, plus Benediction.

    A simple said Mass, with brief homily, and maybe one hymn, is something I could cope with. The morning Mass - sometimes nearly one-and-a-half hours long - is just too much.

    I don't know why A-Cs have not embraced Saturday evening Mass - I know that the RCs do it mostly so those who can't attend on a Sunday morning can still make their Sunday obligation, but I think it makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Not least that it means that an evening Mass is possible alongside Evensong or other non-Eucharistic evening service rather than competing with it, and I would think would make life easier in a multi-parish benefice.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited September 19
    I can think of one urban A-C parish* (with 3 churches) which, pre-Covid, had the main service at Church A on Saturday evening, with Sunday morning services at Church B and Church C. This was a (then) fairly recent arrangement, intended to allow one priest to cover all 3 churches if necessary.

    The arrangement might well work in a rural benefice, as well, although in the example quoted above, it seems that the people of Church A were not too keen, at least at first...

    I daresay other Places have tried a Saturday evening Mass, as per the RCs, but it doesn't seem to have caught on, as @Pomona says.

    *ETA: from their website, it looks as though Churches A, B, and C all have Sunday morning services again.
  • It's one of the hardest things for me about worshipping with the Church of Scotland. It feels like starvation rations when you're used to a feast.
    I used to regularly hear some people of my tribe say “If we had Communion too often, it wouldn’t be special.” My response was generally along the lines of “Try suggesting to your spouse or family that you think you should only eat together once every quarter, because then it would be more special.”

    But seriously, I think this illustrates part of the challenge that was, and in some places still is, faced among American Presbyterians. (I’ll leave it to others more familiar with Presbyterian or Reformed practice elsewhere to comment on the degree to which what I’m about to say has been a challenge in their context.)

    Among American Presbyterians, celebrating Communion with a fair amout of solemnity went hand-in-hand with celebrating it quarterly. It was A Big Deal, not just in terms of significance, but also in terms of preparation required to have everything ready. (Traditional heavy emphasis on personal preparation complete with visitation by elders died out in the early 20th C, though communicants we’re still encouraged to prepare themselves.) Preparing all the bread, filling the wee cuppies, making sure the linens were cleaned and pressed, along with having chalice and main loaf of bread ready required a fair amount of time. Often, the full Session needed to be on hand to serve the elements, and to do the other things that were “always done,” like uncovering and recovering the elements with a large linen cloth. That portion of the service took a fair amount of time, and then there was a more work to be done afterward.

    Aside from the Fundamental Rule—“But we’ve always done it that way” (meaning quarterly)—there was generally a reaction of “But how can we do all of that every month/week?” Which of course invoked the corollary to the Fundamental Rule—“But we’ve never done it that way”—as congregations had to be convinced that there were other ways to celebrate the Sacrament than the way we’d “always” done it, ways that were simpler, didn’t require as much prep work and didn’t require every elder being available to assist with administration every time. And in many instances, this task needed to be coupled with efforts to make occasions of Communion less . . . dour? funereal? . . . and more joyful.


    Most of our congregations got there, I think, but it required patience, good leadership and education for that to happen.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Pomona wrote: »

    I don't know why A-Cs have not embraced Saturday evening Mass - I know that the RCs do it mostly so those who can't attend on a Sunday morning can still make their Sunday obligation, but I think it makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Not least that it means that an evening Mass is possible alongside Evensong or other non-Eucharistic evening service rather than competing with it, and I would think would make life easier in a multi-parish benefice.

    A common practice here used be for Catholics to go to Saturday evening confession and then Mass straight after. Then the younger ones (and many not so young) would head off to the usual sort of Saturday evening activities, activities which probably would have prevented their attending Mass and taking communion on Sunday morning without a further confession.

  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I used to regularly hear some people of my tribe say “If we had Communion too often, it wouldn’t be special.” My response was generally along the lines of “Try suggesting to your spouse or family that you think you should only eat together once every quarter, because then it would be more special.”

    ...

    Among American Presbyterians, celebrating Communion with a fair amout of solemnity went hand-in-hand with celebrating it quarterly. It was A Big Deal, not just in terms of significance, but also in terms of preparation required to have everything ready. (Traditional heavy emphasis on personal preparation complete with visitation by elders died out in the early 20th C, though communicants we’re still encouraged to prepare themselves.) Preparing all the bread, filling the wee cuppies, making sure the linens were cleaned and pressed, along with having chalice and main loaf of bread ready required a fair amount of time. Often, the full Session needed to be on hand to serve the elements, and to do the other things that were “always done,” like uncovering and recovering the elements with a large linen cloth. That portion of the service took a fair amount of time, and then there was a more work to be done afterward.

    I've heard the "it won't be special" argument too, though never from Lutherans. It sorta freaks me out. Like, does anybody say that about sex? (Pardon the analogy.) Given the Real Presence thing, it's plenty special enough. And perhaps that's the problem--IME those who say this to me are all memorialists.

    The argument about extra work makes me laugh. The description above is a pretty good description of what goes on in an LCMS church every Sunday (or two Sundays) in a non-pandemic context, and leaves out some stuff (like communion cards for those who use them, and the washing up with proper disposal of wash water etc. and consuming any remaining elements, etc. etc. etc. But I've never heard anybody say it was too much work. Have these people no altar guild? Or in our case, no teenagers who enjoy this kind of service?
  • Nick Tamen wrote: »
    I used to regularly hear some people of my tribe say “If we had Communion too often, it wouldn’t be special.” My response was generally along the lines of “Try suggesting to your spouse or family that you think you should only eat together once every quarter, because then it would be more special.”

    ...

    Among American Presbyterians, celebrating Communion with a fair amout of solemnity went hand-in-hand with celebrating it quarterly. It was A Big Deal, not just in terms of significance, but also in terms of preparation required to have everything ready. (Traditional heavy emphasis on personal preparation complete with visitation by elders died out in the early 20th C, though communicants we’re still encouraged to prepare themselves.) Preparing all the bread, filling the wee cuppies, making sure the linens were cleaned and pressed, along with having chalice and main loaf of bread ready required a fair amount of time. Often, the full Session needed to be on hand to serve the elements, and to do the other things that were “always done,” like uncovering and recovering the elements with a large linen cloth. That portion of the service took a fair amount of time, and then there was a more work to be done afterward.

    I've heard the "it won't be special" argument too, though never from Lutherans. It sorta freaks me out. Like, does anybody say that about sex? (Pardon the analogy.) Given the Real Presence thing, it's plenty special enough. And perhaps that's the problem--IME those who say this to me are all memorialists.

    The argument about extra work makes me laugh. The description above is a pretty good description of what goes on in an LCMS church every Sunday (or two Sundays) in a non-pandemic context, and leaves out some stuff (like communion cards for those who use them, and the washing up with proper disposal of wash water etc. and consuming any remaining elements, etc. etc. etc. But I've never heard anybody say it was too much work. Have these people no altar guild? Or in our case, no teenagers who enjoy this kind of service?

    The very existence of the word "altar" smacks of Papist Idolatry. ;)

    Seriously though there does seem to be an excessive amount of faff about traditional (well, the last century or so) Presbyterian communion practice, whether it's all the wee cuppies to put in holders and fill, the cutting up bread into little cubes and getting everything washed and dried after. I suspect also that the elders aren't overly keen on having to get suited and booted for the occasion (which is an argument for suitable vestments in my book), which still seems to be de rigeur, and it is all down to the elders (not that you'd find enough teenagers to do it in most of the Kirk's congregations these days anyway).
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    So how strongly does religious affiliation figure when it comes to communion?
    In times past I have (rarely) communicated in churches I don't belong to on a "Yeah, what they mean by it" basis. Pretty sure I wouldn't now except maybe in an Orthodox/Eastern church who would probably have "views" about giving communion to a Papist anyway.

    I've been to an RC mass a number of times, and have limited myself to spiritual communion out of respect for RC rules. And there were a couple of times in my youth where friends took me along to trendy outdoor services of some description, where I partook although with uncertainty about whether or not it was strictly kosher. Actually, I met my maths teacher at one of them - I don't know which of us was more surprised.
    Pomona wrote: »
    I don't know why A-Cs have not embraced Saturday evening Mass

    From a practical point of view, do you think it's easier to keep Saturday nights or Sunday mornings free of other commitments?

    Our TEC place used to have a Saturday evening service, but it was scrapped because of continual low attendance - I think in the last couple of years it ran, it never had more than half-a-dozen people.
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