For most of my 47 years as a pastor, the nearly universal practice across most Christian denominations has been the celebration of World Communion Sunday every first Sunday in October. Not so much in the past several years.
The tradition was begun in 1930 by Hugh Thomson Kerr, a Presbyterian minister whose goal was to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity in which each congregation experienced a sense of interconnection one with another. It was then adopted throughout his denomination and subsequently spread to other denominations.
World Communion Sunday offered individual worshippers and congregations a distinctive opportunity to experience Holy Communion in the context of the global community of faith. That special day became a time when Christians in every culture could together break the bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the head of the church.
On that day, there was room for everyone at the table, each remembering that all were part of one whole body of believers.
I still cherish memories of my experiences in the small country church where I grew up, knowing it was also shared by others worshipping in a grand cathedral or in a primitive mud hut, at an outdoor table on a hilltop or one in a storefront gathering place.
Christians celebrate the holy communion in as many ways as there are congregations, be they sacramental or non-sacramental, liturgical or non-liturgical, confessional or non-confessional in faith and practice. But, the word “eucharist” still carries the same universal definition – “thanksgiving!” Thankfully, World Communion Sunday can be both a profound worship experience and a time for learning more about the wider community of faith.
Why is World Communion Sunday especially needed now? Because so much division has threatened national unity and global unity to the point of extinction of any kind of unity! There are so many gaps to bridge – racial gaps, social gaps, economic gaps, political gaps, theological gaps, and especially now, even corona-viral gaps!
Would we not all benefit by coming together at the one Lord’s table to share one bread and one body as one holy Catholic and Apostolic church? Such a world communion annual gathering has the potential for teaching us that this common experience makes all of us equals as recipients of a common sacred gift!
Changing just two letters, the word “communion” results in the word “community” – the coming together of those who discover something in “common” that leads to “unity!” Be the change!
Whatever your congregation’s practice on the first Sunday in October, or any Sunday in any month, commit yourself to the re-imagination of community and the recreation of peace and unity with all Christians and all peoples everywhere in this world that God has gifted us to share!
And on the first Sunday of October, also give some thought and prayer for global vaccination!
Note: EPLN contributor Pastor Rod Anderson serves on the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the former longtime senior pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you would like to contribute a faith-based column to the Eden Prairie Local News, email email@example.com.