Sunday, March 22, 2009
Do baptists have a communion liturgy?
“Do baptists have a way of doing communion?” I was asked in passing this morning. A few weeks ago, I spent time with the children in the church, talking with them about communion. It was part of a church wide process, in which we took time to explore communion, it’s why’s and wherefore’s. Hence the question, as to whether baptists have a way of doing communion.
My answer is yes, Baptist’s do have a communion liturgy. Each church is different, but there are some repeated patterns. Here’s my take on the “liturgy.”
explain – an explanation, often more devotional in format, in which the meaning of communion is explained.
pray – often 2 people, one for the bread, and one for the cup, pray.
invite – some indication is given of who can participate.
distribute – the elements are passed around. This tends to be individualistic and passive, with bread on trays and juice in little cups.
eat and drink – time is spent, usually individually, thinking upon the meaning of the cup.
thank – often a prayer of thanks.
A Baptist liturgy is not based on a whole lot of words. But the above is based on a clear theology. The explanation tends to focus on the events of the Last supper. This does make it “thin” (too thin in my opinion, missing Incarnation, resurrection, Spirit and eschatology), but it is a way of telling the story. The two people who pray are rarely clergy, because the priesthood of all believers is encouraged. Equally, going forward is viewed with suspicion, because of the danger of affirming a “priest” as essential in what is an equal table.
My journey has pushed me toward what I would call a bapti-can liturgy. It seeks to honour the richness of being baptist: a theology of community, a unease with ritual and words for the sake of words, an expectation of “communion” with God. But it adds in a greater theological breadth (weaving in themes of Incarnation, resurrection, Spirit and eschatology) in the explanation, ensures the prayer invokes the Spirit to make Jesus real, encourages people to come forward to receive from each other to enhance participation and community contact, distribution which includes the breaking of one loaf and the placing of pieces of that loaf on the trays alongside those small squares, visuals and creativity to provide multiple layers as people eat and drink, a final thanks which often includes the Lords Prayer as a way of expressing our unity with each other and the church world wide.
So yes, Baptists do have a communion liturgy.
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