For the last few years I've had the privilege of being one of those who gets to shape some of the larger sessions, we have the somewhat utilitarian title of "session Design Group". It has been a thrilling experience seeing words we've crafted and laboured over be used in ways that have brought joy, peace, hope, laughter, as well as creating space for people to encounter God or access his word afresh.
This year I had the task of shaping a communion service that would be intergenerational, that is to say would speak in some way to people of every age. For various reasons there were some constraints (getting more than a thousand people moving around in a fairly full space can be tough, and we needed to include a sermon...).
Was it successful? In part, but not fully. Some things worked terrifically well for nearly everyone (I'd asked the Viz-a-Viz band "Taste" to perform in order to get people to dance, and they were amazing) and some things worked really well for some people (Creativity zones that blessed most of those who accessed them, but these were a minority of attenders overall). And there were some things that a lot of people struggled with.
When we came to actually break bread together, I had prepared a very simple way of doing this. My aim had been to re-empower the congregation by moving away from a lot of words from, the front, and for the invitation and explanation to come from amongst the gathered people. It was a way of reflecting that the power at work among us is Jesus power, not earthly priestly power. So, following a simple introduction we were then to have a question asked by a congregant, followed by everyone giving the answer. There was conversation afterwards about this, and a number of people expressed desire to have the questions for use in their own setting, and to see how the script had intended the time to go. So I reproduce here the scripted part of the communion in the hope that it will enlighten the conversation about this part of the service, as well as provide a useful resource for the wider church.
Communion Question and Answer liturgy
In the passage we read, Paul says that every kind of earthly power is worth nothing when compared to Jesus. Paul speaks of wanting to know Jesus' power only, and to share in the life, death and new life found in Him.
Question 1Whose meal is this, and who can share in it?
Co-ordinator: We all say
Response 1 This table belongs to Jesus, and every person who hears His invitation to eat, drink, and begin a new life is welcome.
Q2 Why do we break and eat bread?
R2 On the night that Jesus was arrested, he shared a meal with his friends.
He took bread, and He broke it, and He gave some to each of them.
He told His friends that this was to remind them of His body, which was going to be broken on the cross.
As we share in the bread at the same time, it reminds us that we are one family eating together.
Q3 Why do we drink wine?
A3 Jesus told us He was making a new start for everyone.
We drink wine to remind us that Jesus bled and died so we could be forgiven, so that we could forgive others, and so that we could begin again.
Q4 What should someone do if they don't understand or feel ready to follow Jesus?
A4 They could sit quietly, and ask for God's help to understand. They could talk to Him about the things that hold them back from following Jesus.
As a sign that they are on the way to faith and understanding they could take and eat one of the grapes today when the bread is served.
Q5 How long will we keep on sharing in this meal?
A5 Until Jesus returns, and everyone will see His glory, power and beauty.
Come soon Lord Jesus!
Before we eat and drink. let's thank God for His gifts to us.
(extemporare prayer preferred here)
So now, we will break bread together (lifts and breaks bread) and then drink wine together (lifts the cup). You will be served where you are, and as the bread comes there will be one server who has grapes, looking for those not ready to share in communion, but still welcomed at this table. If they don't see you, please don't be embarrassed to catch their attention!