Monday, February 20, 2006

Another Case Study

For this reflection paper, imagine you are the senior pastor of the congregation you consider to be your church home.

Rachel and Dan are a couple in their mid 20s in your church. They are faithful members and have a dynamic faith in Christ. They have announced their engagement and have approached you to officiate their wedding. You have met with them regularly for pre-marital counseling and to plan the wedding. As you begin finalizing details of the wedding two months before the ceremony, they go to a friend’s wedding and return with an idea for their ceremony: they would like you to serve them communion after they take their vows, but think that the size of the congregation (over 200) for the wedding would prevent everyone from receiving without it taking too long. In other words, they want to commune only, not open it to the entire congregation.

How do you respond? What are the historical and theological precedents for this practice? How does this square with the theology of the Lord’s Supper in your own tradition? How does the fact that a wedding is worship service in your church play into your response? If you respond without granting their request, what pastoral approaches do you take in your approach?

Does it matter if the bride’s mother is the church chair? The groom’s father a new Christian?

If you require communion for all, how do you fence the table? (that is, who is allowed to commune?)

I'll post my answer in a couple days.


Mumcat said...

I'm not a priest (don't even play one on tv) but here's my take (FWIW).

The Eucharist is a community event, not a personal thing. I'd tell the couple that it's all or nothing -- either the whole congregation is invited to partake or nobody does. They least of all have the right to say who is invited to come to Christ's table.

At our parish, the invitation is stated "Wherever you are on your faith journey, you are welcome at Christ's table.." That "Christ's table is the operative phrase. Christ offers the invitation to partake, not the priest, not the chairperson of the Altar Guild or Vestry, not even the bride and groom.

Emily said...

Either it's open to everyone or no communion at all.

Frankly, my experience is that unless the attendees are mostly members of that church, only a very few will take communion, even if you beg them to.

Stasi said...

Oh, real quick - everyone, myself included, is fast to say it has to be communal not individual. But why? I need a historical or theological or biblical reason, not just "it's always done that way."

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

All I can suggest is that the place in the Bible that most directly deals with the relationship between the Eucharist and the community is 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. Maybe 1 Cor 11:33 is the verse you'd want for a "communal not individual" argument?

I have no idea whether the ECUSA directly addresses this case anywhere.

Caelius said...

It's likely only dealt with by implication,

" At the Communion, it is appropriate that the newly married couple receive Communion first, after the ministers. (BCP. p. 432).

Or in the instructions that after the ministers have communed, the Eucharist is to be immediately delivered to the people (p. 338) and then the language changes to " The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words , that is they are administered to those of the people who choose to receive them.

JTB said...

This might be helpful:

Also, John Zizioulas' Being as Communion might have some good stuff in it for a theological rationale.

Stasi said...


I used the BEM and the Corinthians passage. Muchos Gracias!!!

Dave said...

I'm learning a lot from these case studies and responses. The only answer I had was an instinctive feeling that communion is supposed to be a communal (same root word!) joining into the Body of Christ, plus something sarcastic and snarky about "bridezillas."