Friday, October 9, 2015

Extending the Communion Table


Holy Communion is one of two a sacraments in the United Methodist Church, the other being baptism. In the UMC, communion is an act of the whole church. We do not practice private communion. It is always done within the context of the assembled community of faith. But, like almost every other Christian denomination, we recognize that not everyone can be assembled when communion is offered. Persons who are not able to come by reason of illness, disability or medical treatment or condition may be offered communion where they reside or are under treatment. In the United Methodist Church, this is known as extending the table. However, communion for these persons begins within the context of the community of faith. The communion elements of bread and wine are consecrated by the pastor before being transported to serve to the home-bound for the sick.

General information
1.         Because Communion is an act of the church, it is intended for any person baptized into the body of Christ in the apostolic tradition. In Methodism, Communion may be taken by unbaptized persons if they are desirous of baptism soon. Hence, Communion should be served only by baptized persons.
2.         One of the earliest sacramental issues the early church had to deal with was whether the moral character of clergy or lay persons could negate the efficacy of the sacraments. That is, were there sins that should disqualify clergy or laity from either consecrating or receiving the sacraments? The answer is no. The actor in the sacraments is God, whose power is not hindered by the human condition. Therefore, there is no personal issue of servers that makes them unworthy to take Communion to the homebound or sick. We are not worthy to receive or serve Communion to begin with!
3.         Communion is to be neither consecrated, served, nor received casually. It is a means of grace by which Christ sanctifies his holy church to move us on to perfection. While a Communion visit may be light-hearted, serving and receiving Communion should be treated with respect.
4.         Ideally, Communion to the sick and homebound should be taken on the same day that it is celebrated at the church, using the same Communion elements as shared by the congregation.  Those who carry Holy Communion to the sick and persons otherwise confined, therefore, continue the community's act of worship. They extend the community's embrace to include those unable to be physically present. If a same-day visit is not possible, Communion should be taken as soon as possible.
5.         Always call ahead to confirm the day and time to come. Observe the visitants’ condition and time your visit with them as you deem best for all. Remember, most will be very glad to see you and may want you to stay longer than you planned!
6.         “Visit at full speed” right to departure. Do not take several minutes to explain why you must leave and say farewell. When the time comes that you must leave, simply stand and politely say so, make brief but cordial farewells, and go.
7.         When praying with the homebound and sick, ask them first what they wish you to pray for, if they are able to answer.
8.         Communion is to be offered to all persons present if they wish. So it is good to know how many persons will be there before arriving.

Continued after the jump