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How do you comfortably integrate guests into the communion celebrations of the church?
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                                                          Ann Roda-Hernandez
 
Q: How do you comfortably integrate guests into the communion celebrations of the church?
 
A: A recent guest pointed to the sign that read, “Foot Washing” and asked, “Does it matter which foot you wash?” I laughed at her question, thinking she was joking. Then I realized that she was genuine in asking the question. The sign said, “Foot Washing” which means one foot.

This experience made me see that the communion activities and terms, routine to us, may have become so routine that we do not even recognize it when it does not make sense. Exactly why do we call it foot washing, when we actually wash both feet and not just one foot?  It is easy to miss these nuances when we are stuck in a routine with the same terms and practices, assuming that everything makes perfect sense to everyone – including our guests.

Here is how we redesigned our communion service to be fresh and meaningful, to make sense, and to enable people to fall in love with communion all over again. We reframed the traditional terms into a language all can understand and relate to. We call our communion service, The Expressions of Love. This language is spoken throughout the service, and used in our bulletin, handouts, and on our signs.
We explain that what Jesus did on the cross shows His LOVE for us. What we do during our communion practices shows our LOVE for Him. Our LOVE for Jesus Christ is expressed in three different ways:

The Feet Washing: Love Expression #1
Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. He willingly humbled and unconditionally served His followers in a lowly human task. We are to follow His example and be willing to perform even the most unpleasant tasks for one another and for humankind. The Feet Washing expresses our love for Jesus and for one another.

The Bread: Love Expression #2
Jesus gave His body for us. We take the bread to remember and to thank Him for His sacrifice.

The Wine: Love Expression #3
Jesus shed His blood for us. We take the wine to remember and to thank Him for His sacrifice.

This explanation is printed on a card, and given to every person entering the church that day. On the flip side of the card we provide a general overview of the communion practice and why we, as a Christian community, observe it.  This is how we explain it:
Communion is a practice that is meant to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. It is a special time to gather together as one body to remember and celebrate what Jesus Christ did for us in His life, death and resurrection.
  • We observe communion because Jesus told us to.  We seek to obey His commands. (1 Corinthians 11:24)
  • We observe communion as a time for self-examination and reflection. We examine our hearts, our lives, relationships, hope and dreams. (1 Corinthians 11:28)
  • We observe communion as a statement of faith, proclaiming His death until He returns again. (1 Corinthians 11:26)
  • We observe communion to proclaim that we are a community of the followers of Jesus Christ. His  life becomes our life and we become members of each other. (1 Corin. 10:16-17)
This simple reframing of traditional terms and practices provides our church family with a beautiful reminder of what the communion celebration is all about, provides parents with a powerful teaching tool with their children, and provides a guest-friendly invitation to join us at the table as we express our feelings for Jesus.



Ann Roda-Hernandez is the associate pastor for the New Hope Church in Fulton, Maryland