Surveys have shown that within many United Methodists there is a deep hunger for the riches of divine grace made available to us through Holy Communion. We long for an experiential and authentic communion with Jesus Christ through this sacrament shared in the presence of other followers of Christ. In this time in which we live, where we can temporarily not gather in groups of more than 10 people, how can we best satisfy the wonderful hunger people have for “this holy mystery” (“This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion”, p. 2)?
We thought to do so by including this in our live-stream worship service. In our compressed time frame to prepare for live-stream worship last Sunday, I made the decision to invite our congregation to share in a modified expression of our Word and Table II liturgy. Some, perhaps many, of you did so with bread and grape juice in your own homes. Those I have spoken with who participated were glad for the opportunity. As it turns out, I erred in my decision. I have learned this week that our Virginia Conference Cabinet of District Superintendents has requested that churches not celebrate “virtual” or online Holy Communion through our live-streamed worship. Because of this, we’ll be exploring other ways to provide this meaningful sacrament in this time of social distancing that are consistent with our United Methodist theology and current guidelines. Stay tuned! And now, a teaching moment.
Why is Holy Communion so important? The founder of Methodism, the Rev. John Wesley, described Holy Communion as “the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God” (“Sermon on the Mount—Discourse Six,” III.11). In addition, he and his brother, the Rev. Charles Wesley, believed that Holy Communion embodied the love, grace, sacrifice, and forgiveness, found in Christ.
In this “holy mystery” of Holy Communion, we encounter the presence of Christ; and we experience healing, nourishment, and holiness, along with the pledge of heaven/eternal life that begins here and now. The Wesleys helped the Anglican Church recover and broadly proclaim Holy Communion as “a powerful means through which divine grace is given to God’s people.” Our United Methodist theology and practice of Holy Communion spring from their teaching and example (“This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion”, p. 5).
Why is Holy Communion important to you? I invite you to share your responses with me – either via chat during our live-stream worship, text, or email. For me, God used an experience of Holy Communion during a “Youth in Missions” conference at Lake Junaluska, the summer of 1974, to restore and renew my faith. I can still recall the experience and the felt presence of Christ among us. It was a significant turning point for me. What’s your story? I look forward to reading/hearing.
Grace, peace, and good health!
Rev. Jim Wishmyer