I’ve heard it from several of you: “I’d love to have weekly communion, but my congregation would never have it.”
They think it will get “stale” or rote, or take too much time.
They say most other churches do monthly or quarterly communion. So why are you getting weird about it?
If they’re Methodist and good with history, they talk about a Methodist tradition of quarterly communion.
My last post made the case for weekly communion. I’m assuming you’re convinced. If not, go back to that post. Or read Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative for a starter or Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy for some real depth (affiliate links). Those will both be great references for the preaching series suggested below.
Now, how do you make that transition?
First, if you have a congregation that isn’t used to weekly communion, it’s understandable that they’re not all gung-ho. We’re creatures of habit. When you grow up with something, it’s what you come to see as the norm. I grew up with butter in the refrigerator. My wife grew up with it on the counter. We were both shocked to learn anyone would do it differently. I digress… My point: be patient. Weekly communion isn’t part of their history. They haven’t been taught to value it, so you can’t expect that they will.
Second, plan some time for teaching and preaching on communion. Do a 6-8 week series on communion. There’s so much rich theology here that 6-8 weeks should be no problem. Use that series to show your congregation how the Eucharist historically was the climax of the worship service. Use it to tell them that the Methodists only started doing it quarterly because they couldn’t get an ordained pastor there more often – and they rushed the table to get to it on those occasions! Also, it just makes sense that you should take communion each week during the series.
Third, memorize a Eucharist liturgy (we call it The Great Thanksgiving in the UMC). When you learn this by heart, it will begin to change how you see the Eucharist. It will change how you present it to the congregation – not as a dry reading, but as something that you have begun to internalize. Something you pray. Give it a try! You can do it, and I think you and your congregation will benefit from it.
[Edit: You should go read this brilliant article, “Praying the Church’s Prayer in the Eucharist,” suggested by Holly Boardman in the comments.}
Fourth, my hope is that spending 6-8 weeks in the depths of eucharistic theology will lead you and your people to ask, “How could we ever go without this anymore?” Perhaps you can just suggest that as you move along. “This is really good, the way we should always worship… why don’t we just keep doing it?”
And if the people don’t go along with it? They suggest that you just offer communion in a back room after worship for those who want it. Or to have a special early morning, or Wednesday evening service for communion. Just don’t mess with the main worship service.
I’m biased, and perhaps a bit hard-headed here, but my opinion: make the change anyway.
Let’s put this in a different context… You show up to a new church where there’s a Scripture reading and sermon once a month. The rest of the weeks, there are other things in its place: dramatic dance to contemporary Christian music, readings from the Koran, testimonies about social justice work… How long will you go before you require a change?
If you accept the Eucharist as an equally important part of the Church’s worship, won’t you require the same change for it? Even if people aren’t all on board with it?
Yes, some (many?) will be upset. This is why I at least suggest step two above before an immediate, permanent change – to help educate. But at some point, if you really believe in this, I think you need to make the change.
I hope this was helpful. If it was, would you click here to JOIN my e-mail update list?