This morning we had a really good service and the sermon in particular was very thought-provoking and convicting. One of the best since we started attending this church.
At the end we had Holy Communion together and even though we were in the contemporary service, it was handled much more reverently than in times past. And I got to thinking about the different ways I’ve seen the Eucharist handled in various churches. In Catholic and Anglican churches, people come up row by row to the front and receive the bread directly from the priest/rector (or sometimes lay ministers in larger congregations) and drink the wine from a common cup. In the more formal Methodist church of my upbringing it was similar except the minister and associate minister walked down the row of people who’d come up front with a plate of the bread and a tray of individual communion cups. The people would take one of each themselves, eat and drink it right there, then return to their pews.
Since then in various places I’ve seen all sorts of variations such as going to various stations around the room to get the bread and the cup and then return to one’s seat and wait until everyone has the elements so we can all take together. Or one where everyone remains seated while the ushers or deacons pass the tray with bread and individual cups down the rows and the people either immediately ingest the elements or they wait for everyone to take together.
My question is, is there one superior way of doing this from a theological perspective? I know I can appreciate the symbolism in some of the variations. I like the common cup and the act of receiving the Eucharist (as opposed to just getting it yourself) because it seems to befit an act that is primarilyone of God initiating His grace toward us rather than us “grasping” for it. Then again, I like the communal aspect of us all having the bread and wine and taking it together as the minister invokes the words of consecration. It takes some of the individualism out of it. And from a practical (not to mention hygenic) perspective, the individual cups make some sense.
What do you think? Is there some God-ordained way this absolutely has to be done outside of using the proper elements (bread, “fruit of the vine”) and treating it with reverence and the typical Scripture references from Corinthians or the Last Supper being spoken?