What is a Sacrament in the United Church of Christ?
Sacraments are ritual actions in worship which, according to Scripture, were instituted by Jesus. In the sacraments of baptism and communion we ask the Holy Spirit to use water, bread, and wine to make visible the grace, forgiveness, and presence of God in Christ.
The origin of Communion
The communion meal recalls the table fellowship Jesus shared with his disciples, and in particular the Last Supper on the night before his death as well as his appearances to the disciples during meals following his resurrection. Throughout its history these Biblical events have been central to the Church's worship life.
The meaning of Communion
In the sacrament of Holy Communion, also called the Lord's Supper, Christians hear, taste, touch and receive the grace of God revealed through Jesus Christ in a unique way. Communion is:
- a joyous act of thanksgiving for all God has done, is doing, and will do for the redeeming of creation;
- a sacred memorial of the crucified and risen Christ, a living and effective sign of Christ's sacrifice in which Christ is truly and rightly present to those who eat and drink;
- an earnest prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit to unite those who partake with the Risen Christ and with each other, and to restore creation, making all things new;
- an intimate experience of fellowship in which the whole church in every time and place is present and divisions are overcome;
- a hopeful sign of the promised Realm of God marked by justice, love and peace.
The United Church of Christ Book of Worship reminds us that "the invitation and the call [to the supper] celebrate not only the memory of a meal that is past, but an actual meal with the risen Christ that is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet at which Christ will preside at the end of history."
What elements are used? What do they mean?
The broken bread and poured cup represent—present anew—the crucified and risen Christ. The wheat gathered to bake one loaf and the grapes pressed to make one cup remind participants that they are one body in Christ, while the breaking and pouring announce the costliness of Christ's sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. At MCC we provide gluten-free elements, and always use non-alcoholic grape juice so that children and people with allergies may freely partake.
What words are used?
The Book of Worship and The New Century Hymnal contain several liturgies for the celebration of Holy Communion. In addition, many liturgies from ecumenical and global sources are frequently used. At the heart of the service are Jesus' words about the bread and the cup from the Biblical account of the Last Supper.
How is Communion served?
On most Communion Sundays, deacons will pass trays of cubes of bread and small individual cups to the congregation in their pews. Intinction (dipping the bread in the wine) is also practiced occasionally. The pastors preside at the Table, assisted by deacons.
Who may receive Communion?
Our Communion Table is open to all who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God's people. Some visitors from churches which believe communion should only be celebrated among Christians who are in full doctrinal agreement might choose to not participate, their decision is respected.
What about children?
In many Christian churches baptized children and even infants are able to receive communion. While practice in the United Church of Christ varies, at MCC our children receive instruction and are welcomed to the Table (at their parents' discretion) in the spring of third grade.
How often is Communion served?
In the early church Communion was served weekly, a practice continued and encouraged by the Protestant Reformers. Gradually the frequency of communion decreased in many Protestant churches. Our current practice is that we share Communion regularly on the first Sunday of each month.