2nd Sunday of Placement

Today was my second Sunday at KHR Grangemouth. I was delivering the children’s talk and today was also communion. So, before I comment on both, I also want to note that I also spent a lot of time blethering over tea afterwards. They’re a very friendly lot at KHR and it’s great how welcoming they’ve been. My big problem is keeping track of names. So, if anyone has any tried and trusted name-remembering techniques, I’m all ears.

Anyway, on to my observations for the day.

The children’s talk went well (I thought) but then it helps when you’ve got a very responsive group of young people. It especially helps when they don’t get stumped when the stock answers of ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘the Bible’ aren’t the expected answers. I got a lot of very perceptive answers which showed that they understood my questions and were giving it some thought. My theme was ‘meeting’ since that was the first time I had properly met any of them. We moved on to ways of meeting God and that tied nicely into the idea of communion being of particular importance as a way of meeting God. Someone noted that I didn’t use any sort of script while I was speaking. I think with a children’s talk I like to know where I’m starting and know where I’m aiming for. Everything else in between is pretty much up for grabs because you just don’t know what sort of response you’ll get. The knack is to guide any apparently tangential comment back on course (and know when to give up when it just isn’t working).

Communion was pretty much to formula but with one aspect that I do think merits looking at. In KHR, like a number of churches I have been in, the elders who will be distributing the elements get served first. Then the rest of the congregation is served. I quite like having the elders served after the congregation. One church I was in used a particular formulation of words that, paraphrased heavily, said, “We have tasted, it is good, now you can have some.” It wasn’t intentionally ‘elitist’ but that’s how it struck me at the time. That has stuck with me and perhaps now I’m a little over-sensitive to the impressions given during communion. One communion service I did like was one where the bread was distributed and everyone ate as they received it but when the wine was distributed, it was kept until everyone had some. Then everyone took it together. I enjoyed the more ‘communal’ feel to that approach. That said, it obviously wouldn’t work where a common cup was used. I’m also going down to the evening communion service which, I’m told, is different, so I’ll add another entry later about that.

7 responses to “2nd Sunday of Placement”

  1. I think you’re right about communion and how it is served. I’m allowed to preside at one of our congregations and I like that they are all served, the elders served then me and we all eat and drink together. The one thing that gave me pause was that the ‘minister’ drinks from the big silver chalice while the rest of the congregation get a thimble. That felt strange for me.

    I hate anything in communion that suggests that one person or a group of people somehow have more control or say over the sacrament to the point that I really don’t get why it has to be a minister that presides in the Church of Scotland. For me that is a bit theologically confused. I always though Jesus gave the gift of communion to his friends so we could remember him, not just when there is an ordained person in the room. [gets down off of hobby horse]

  2. My theolgy for communion is that I am there in the place of the host and therefore make sure that those serving others are served before they serve and then I wait until all have been served before I take the bread and wine myself. Not necessarily logical, but it’s a format I quite like and sessions seem to appreciate that. Sessions seem to be more concerned about when the minister gets the sacrament rather than the session and congregation.

  3. I think the order worked better in KHR than in the other church I referred to simply because of the words used. I do like the idea of the ‘host’ being the last. That makes sense.

    The evening communion was an entirely different affair. Everyone gathered around the communion table so there was more of a feeling of togetherness. Not a common cup, still individual glasses, but perhaps the best compromise for serving a larger gathering. I also liked the opportunity to share a blessing afterwards. It’s something that wasn’t done in the morning and I meant to comment on it.
    I also particularly liked the words of invitation David used at the beginning. Very inclusive and a strong reminder that one doesn’t need to be ‘good enough’ to participate in communion. I know Stewart and I have had this discussion in the past and I think he would have enjoyed the openness of the invitation.
    As for who should/shouldn’t be allowed to preside at communion – I can see both sides of the argument. I see the need to ensure that the sacrament isn’t distorted or misrepresented but I also see a place for a shared ‘breaking of bread’ at appropriate times. Maybe the distinction between the sacrament and an agape meal is necessary and it’s a matter of education which is which.

  4. The agape meal is a compromise that allow for lay people to preside at ‘communion’. I have been present at a house group when an elder presided. My presence gave it theological ‘legitimacy’ and meant a lot to the elder concerned. I don’t usually have the big chalice for the afternoon or evening communion based on the fact that I am simply one of the people being ministered to. However, the morning traditional service almost demands the cups being present. There is something ‘nice’ about the formality of that act, but shouldn’t be seen as something obligatory at all breaking of bread occasions.

  5. Thanks for the kind comments about phrases used. I can’t with honesty accept the high praise though. The words I used last night were from the Wee Worship Book from the Iona Community. You may well find that as time passes you will collect prayer books and service outline books. They help in the general preparation of worship, and if someone’s work is good, why can it not be shared ? (especially if their permission is given when you buy the book ?)
    Some might say this is not original thinking, but when you are faced with the myriad other things that demand your time, then practical thinking has to come into play.

  6. David, I think your advice to collect is great. I collect prayers, invitations, liturgies and blessings, sometimes the things I find hardest to write, but the things I find give a service its shape and cohesion.

    ‘Doing communion’ for lots of people is hard. In many ways it becomes an exercise in logistics and is difficult to make either intimate or communal. The words become very important and I’ve tried to vary them to keep people interested (awake) and to try to give different ways in to communion for different people. But it is really hard and I have had lots of help from friends who’s words I have nicked!

    I was leading a workshop on our ‘Child Friendly Church Award’ on Saturday and we got into a good discussion about children and communion. Probably another topic but it was fascinating to hear how much some people ‘theologise’ (is that a word?) such a simple sacrament. I like that communion is mysterious. I tend to think that because it is a mystery that I’m not meant to really understand it. How could I? So why should we tell kids that they don’t understand it so they can’t take it? Any thoughts?

  7. Thanks for your kind comments, Stewart.
    Just because we don’t understand things completely theologically is no reason not to take part in them. Do we clergy fully understand the sacrament ourselves ? What do you do with someone who has a severe learning difficulty ? Are they somehow barred ? I don’t think so.
    Mystery is part of the sacrament and can’t be otherwise, I think.
    For children we have a ‘children’s communion’ section where an opportunity is given to explain the sacrament as best I can, and then to offer juice and biscuits to them. At Easter we offer the juice and biscuits at the same time as the adult wine and bread and the kids are content with that. One Easter, new to my charge, I wasn’t told the kids would be in for the whole service and hadn’t arranged for them to get the juice and biscuits as normal. The look on their faces as things bypassed them will linger long in the memory. (Won’t do it again !)

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