Tonight I’ve been working on ideas for a communion meal at a church. Here’s the brainstorming document I put together after Googling and thinking. I’m quite curious to hear your creative/unique/symbolic ideas for communion services or meals.
My youth pastor from high school is planting an international church in the Netherlands. Kent and his wife, Leslie, have been missionaries in the NL for seven years, and they’ve been in Maastricht since January, starting Damascus Road International Church. I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in little ways from a distance, and Matthew and I had an incredible visit with them when we were in Europe in September.
I remember from the beginning, back in January, Kent has talked about wanting to host communion meals with the church, where it’s more than just taking communion in a church service–it’s a full meal, shared together. They’re doing it for the first time on December 12. Kent and I got talking about it via email a few days ago, and I ended up putting together some ideas.
The conversation started when Kent asked if I knew of a good online RSVP mechanism that could coordinate the potluck aspect of the meal. I remembered my friend Jenn using Punchbowl, a great e-vite/RSVP service for a recent party she threw, so I checked it out. WOW! I am a huge fan. The more I’ve used it, the more I like it. I need to do a whole post just on Punchbowl. It is perfect and easy for email invitations and online replies, and it’s particularly good at coordinating having guests bring things to the party.
So I set up an invitation for this event on Punchbowl, and I also put the initial announcement about it on the church website’s event page. Soon, that will link to the Punchbowl custom RSVP form for the event. I wanted an image for the website, so I found a nice, free stock photo from Stock.xchng.
The following are notes I sent to Kent tonight:
I wish I were there to help decorate…I have the perfect rough red fabric for a table cloth, and candles… You might want to ask some of the ladies to go over early and set up for the meal and decorate the table(s). Will everyone sit at one long table, several small tables, around on the floor…? If there’s not enough chair/table seating for everyone, you could have people bring blankets and pillows to recline on the ground.
Candles, real bunches of grapes, interesting goblets and cups could work together to make a good centerpiece.
You could leave an empty chair to symbolize Jesus’s presence – that also references the Jewish custom of leaving a seat empty for Elijah during the Seder.
Display of elements
There are some stunning and creative ideas for communion displays at Tabled. (The one with the ice and barbed wire is my favorite; I also like the one with the cups planted in the soil.)
Order of event
I would suggest doing the dinner first, followed by communion. That way people can be boisterous and social at first and have a fun meal together, and then shift into serious mode for the communion time and sharing. Also it would keep people from rushing through communion because they’re hungry.
Or you could have sober music playing as people arrive and keep the tone of the whole evening serious.
You could transition into communion as people are still seated at the table (maybe clear away the dirty plates first). Will you read any scriptures or do any teaching about communion first? You could have people share next about the body and blood. Will you do any sung worship or corporate prayer? After partaking of the elements together, you could have time for people to pray for each other in small groups, and maybe close the evening by singing a hymn a capella. You could request that people leave in contemplation and silence after the hymn.
Will you have the food on the table to serve family style or set up a buffet?
Type of elements
-to reflect the international nature of the group, you could have many different types of bread. Many-colored and -shaped loaves of bread could make a cool centerpiece.
-or homemade elements – if you want to make it really interactive, you could have people get involved in making the elements. You could have prepared bread dough that could be baked in the oven during dinner – the smell of baking bread adds a lot to the sensory ambiance, and the bread would be hot out of the oven just as it was ready to serve. (Here’s one recipe for unleavened bread) Can have people crush (seedless) grapes together to make juice – using a large mortar and pestle or something similar.
Passing of elements
-pass one large loaf and have people rip off pieces as it comes by
-or use small unleavened loaves, one piece for every two people. Have them work together to break the bread, using their right hands (as it’s done in the Middle East – since they never use their left hands to eat, it takes two people to break the bread across the table together – very cool – we’ve done this with Moroccan meals at our house)
-pass one cup and let people dip their broken bread in the cup (lets people share a common cup without swapping spit)
-or pour from one larger cup/pitcher into people’s individual cups
Partaking of elements
-have people pass the elements around the table, essentially serving each other. As each person passes, they could say something like, “The body of Christ, given for you,” and then “The blood of Christ, shed for you,” and the person receiving the elements could say “Amen” or something else in response.
Third Day “Communion Song”
Third Day/Sixpence “I Remember You/Precious Jesus” from City on a Hill
Leeland “Carried to the Table”
Matt Redman “Remembrance”
And then your idea: Ask people to share what the Blood or Body of Christ means (has meant) to them personally. You might tell people about that ahead of time so they can be thinking of a story or experience to share.
Have you ever done a meal like this with your church or small group or in your home? What ideas do you have or resources can you recommend?
- International Communion Meal
- Cena Internazionale: Buon Appetito!
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