“The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'” — 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
What is a Sacrament in the United Church of Christ?
Sacraments are ritual actions in worship which, according to Scripture, were instituted by Jesus. In the sacraments of baptism and communion we ask the Holy Spirit to use water, bread, and wine to make visible the grace, forgiveness, and presence of God in Christ.
The origin of Communion
The communion meal recalls the table fellowship Jesus shared with his disciples, and in particular the Last Supper on the night before his death as well as his appearances to the disciples during meals following his resurrection. Throughout its history these Biblical events have been central to the Church’s worship life.
The meaning of Communion
In the sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving,” Christians hear, taste, touch and receive the grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ in a unique way. Communion is:
- a joyous act of thanksgiving for all God has done, is doing, and will do for the redeeming of creation;
- a sacred memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, a living and effective sign of Christ’s sacrifice in which Christ is truly and rightly present to those who eat and drink;
- an earnest prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit to unite those who partake with the Risen Christ and with each other, and to restore creation, making all things new;
- an intimate experience of fellowship in which the whole church in every time and place is present and divisions are overcome;
- a hopeful sign of the promised Realm of God marked by justice, love and peace.
The United Church of Christ Book of Worship reminds us that “the invitation and the call [to the supper] celebrate not only the memory of a meal that is past, but an actual meal with the risen Christ that is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet at which Christ will preside at the end of history.”
“In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, the United Church of Christ recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.” — From the Preamble to the Constitution of the United Church of Christ
What elements are used? What do they mean?
The broken bread and poured wine (non-alcoholic grape juice) represent — present anew — the crucified and risen Christ. The wheat gathered to bake one loaf and the grapes pressed to make one cup remind participants that they are one body in Christ, while the breaking and pouring announce the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.
How is Communion served?
Communion is served by both laity and clergy and everyone is invited to the table to receive the elements and a short prayer of blessing. Usually, we serve communion by intinction; that is, your server will hand you a piece of bread which you then dip in the wine (non-alcoholic grape juice) and place it in your mouth. If you are unable to come forward, we will bring communion to you in your seat.
Why do you use grape juice?
Although the historic and ecumenical Christian practice has been to use wine, the use of unfermented grape juice by many Protestant churches since the late nineteenth century expresses pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics and also enables the participation of children and youth.
Who may receive Communion?
At the United Church EVERYONE is welcome at the Table. No exceptions. Communion a sacrament of the church, a special place of meeting with God and an experience of unity with each other. All are welcome at the table without regard to church membership or belief.
May my children take communion?
They may. Children can connect with God in beautiful, simple, mystical ways and the experience of communion can be a place of spiritual nurture and feeding to your child. Receiving communion with the church also reinforces the sense of belonging, of being a part of the body. If you would like for a pastor or children’s leader to talk with your child about communion, just let us know.
I haven’t been baptized. May I still receive communion?
You may. The communion table has gifts of its own and God can meet you there. If you would like to discuss baptism or the connection between baptism and communion in the sacramental life of the church, or if you would like to talk about being baptized, our pastors are happy to meet with you.
How often is Communion served?
The United Church offers Holy Communion numerous times throughout the year, including the first Sunday of each month.
Does the church provide communion for those who cannot come to worship on Sundays?
We can. Just let us know if you or someone you know is home-bound or hospitalized and would like to receive communion. With advance notice and proper clearance, we can also serve communion in other institutions such as recovery centers or prisons.