How Often Does Your Church Have Communion?

Once a day? Once a week? Once a month? Fifteen times per year? That’s every fifth Sunday plus certain special celebrations in the Church calendar. How many times does your faith community serve communion?
The question of how often a community or individual can or should practice communion is a naturally followup to the type of conversation that we started in the post on communion a little while back. And, like so many things on this blog, the answer is not as simple as it may seem.
St. Paul who gives us the most detail about the earliest practices of the Church vis-a-vis communion says almost nothing about its frequency. The fact that he addresses the Corinthian Community about their repeated offenses against one another with respect to communion suggests that it was practiced with a certain frequency, but any more clarity is hard to come by from biblical sources.
The tradition of pre-reformation Christianity in both the east and the west certainly seems like “the more the better” but the reliance on ordained priests combined with the profound isolation of many parts of the world suggest that the practice may not have been uniform.
Different reformation traditions have different understandings of what is a proper plan, but it seems that much of the distinction among traditions boils down to differences in how one treats sacred things.
The metaphor that I use when teaching younger folks on this subject involves an understanding of the different ways that a thing, an object, or practice can be special.
Consider, for a moment, a favorable toy, like a stuffed animal or the like. How does the child mark it’s specialness? By playing with it often, even carrying it to bed. It provides comfort, helps the child to make sense of life. Maybe communion is special like this?
Now consider, rather, grandmother’s china, passed to you through generations of care. How to you acknowledge it’s specialness? By eating from it every night? Certainly not. Perhaps the communion is special in this way.
I know that I probably won’t settle any arguments in a post like this. Those who practice communion frequently will likely always find meaning in the frequency. Those who practice more sparingly, likewise. What is at stake here is what is frequently at stake in these posts – intentionality. Figure out what it is that you believe about communion, then adopt a practice that supports that belief. Or change things, by adopting a practice that challenges you and seeing how it changes your belief. In either case, consider how the way you practice influences what you believe. You may be surprised.

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