Sunday, November 08, 2009

communion anabaptist style

Worship. Which I often define as all that we are responding to all that God is. It includes our bodies, our seating relationships, our words of prayer. Today we continued our series on Turning points in history and the focus was the radical reformation. Especially given that the Baptists are 400 years old this year.

A perfect time to rearrange our church seating, swinging some of the pews into a “U” shape. So that we took communion looking at each other, at the body of Christ, rather than the person at the front. Lots of positive feedback on this very simple change in our church architecture. An embodied realisation that we gather as human people.

A perfect time to pull out this communion liturgy written by Balthasar Hubmaier, an early Anabaptist theologian. I pulled out some phrases I considered noteworthy and invited us to pray them together.

Brothers and sisters, If you will love God before, in and above all things. Response: I will
If you will love your neighbour and serve with deeds of love. Response: I will
If you will make peace and unity and reconcile among yourselves. Response: I will
If you will love your enemies and do good to them. Response: I will
So eat and drink with one another in the name of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. May the Lord impart to us his grace. Amen

Note the fascinating progression in the theology of this communion prayer: -> God -> neighbour -> church community -> enemies. At times Baptists are considered functional pragmatists. These words suggest in fact a deeply relational and missional theology, expressed in the acts of worship and engaging the reality of everyday life. It sounds quite contemporary for a prayer written over 400 years ago!

Posted by steve at 05:33 PM


  1. Wonderful how fresh that language seems as well. Thanks for this

    Comment by jane — November 8, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  2. Just to make clear, in terms of your comment re freshness – this is my choosing selected phrases of Hubmaier’s theology.


    Comment by steve — November 8, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

  3. Has Baptist eucharistic (for want of a more baptist word) theology moved away from these significant connections?


    Comment by Chris McLeod — November 9, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  4. dig

    Comment by jonathan robinson — November 9, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  5. Not sure how to answer that Chris. There is no “generic” Baptist eucharist. To phrase the start of Judges, each church does what is right in their own eyes.

    I’ve blogged what I think is a reasonably normative pattern here.

    Being critical, while I like the relational missiology of the above, it needs to be said that I think this anabaptist liturgy lacks a few things: an eschatology and the invoking of the Spirit to make the bread and wine Christ among us.


    Comment by steve — November 9, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  6. I’m not having a go, Steve. Love Baptists! Married one and go to her parent’s church often, especially when on leave. But at the said church one Sunday during the ‘Lord’s Supper’ the deacon reflected on Daniel – no eucharistic connections – then said a prayer and then we had communion. No words of institution or any reference to the last supper. I was a bit confused as to what it was we were doing.


    Comment by Chris McLeod — November 9, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

  7. Chris, You have every right to have a go if that’s your experience.

    Personally, I put a lot of work into communion. I see it as being important theologically and mission wise. I’ve done two preaching series on it at Opawa, once in terms of atonement images, monthly over a year. Another this year in terms of themes of Passover; Jesus meals, 1 Corinthians – as an invitation to think theologically about community and participation.

    But since baptists are lay led, then we remain open to what you experienced.


    Comment by steve — November 9, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

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