Sunday, June 18, 2017

Holy Communion or Eucharist or Mass or the Lord's Supper

We have many names for the ritual of gathering together to eat the bread and wine which Jesus told us to do in memory of him: Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass, or the Lord's Supper. They all mean the same thing: the community of God's people gathered together to worship God in the eating of bread and wine which takes on special meaning in some way as the Body and Blood of Jesus.

(The theological differences of transubstantiation, full union, real presence, are not what I am debating now.)

The history of traditions around the Eucharist, the giving thanks to God, is long and wide. Some churches celebrate with unleavened bread, some with leavened bread. Some churches use wine, some use juice. Some traditions specify who is allowed to participate, specifying that those who wish to do so must be baptized in their church, some churches accept the baptisms of other churches, while some churches allow anyone to participate whether they have been baptized or not.

The Episcopal Church has traditionally required people to be baptized before they are allowed to participate in Holy Communion. For some time, the requirement was also that people be confirmed. During revising of the Book of Common Prayer, eventually the requirement for confirmation was dropped. Lately, (the last twenty years) there has been some discussion about whether the church should drop the requirement for baptism for participation in Communion. The idea is called Open Table and suggests that since Jesus ate and drank with all manner of people, not asking whether or not people are baptized, that we should too. There is also some wisdom about experiencing what being a part of the community looks, feels, smells, sounds, and tastes like before they join.

The church that Sara Miles ends up going to in San Francisco, St. Gregory of Nyssa, has gotten special dispensation from their diocese and the larger church to practice Open Table as an experiment in theology.