Friday, March 09, 2007

Baptists and the Eucharist

Jeff the Baptist on the frequency (or lack thereof) of communion:

This whole thing got start because at many times in church history, there haven't been enough ministers to go around. The colonial period. The westward expansion. Even now some denominations like the Methodists are having trouble meeting their staffing needs. Many denominations solved this by having ministers "ride the circuit" to several churches. You had communion when you had a minister in town, otherwise not. Depending on the size of the circuit this meant you probably wouldn't have communion more than once a month and sometimes it was a lot longer than that depending on staffing and geography. Even though a lot of churches now have their own pastors, they rarely have communion more than once a month. Why? Well because once a month was good enough back in grandpa's day... etc. The exception became common and then became the new norm.

In short, our communion schedule is more about liturgical tradition than any theological reasoning.

That's certainly true in American Methodist history, and sacramental issues were among the primary reasons why an independent Methodist denomination formed in the US apart from Anglicanism.

When I was a Southern Baptist, I never experienced a Eucharist, but as I recall, it was held twice a year on Sunday evenings, and was served to members only.


Dave Munger said...

How often is the Feast of Passover (the "this" in "do this in remembrance of me")?

Pastor David said...


Passover, as I'm sure you know, is an annual event... but I'm not sure I agree that the "this" is Passover.

If "this" is actually Passover, our current ritual (and every Eucharistic liturgies we know about from the earliest church until today) is wrong, anyway, since we don't slaughter a lamb, eat a familial meal with "sandals on and staff at hand..."

Basically, "this" is sharing in bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus and what he has done for us...and "as often" it seems to me, should be fairly often, unless we wish to forget.

Kenny said...

Actually, it seems to me that the text means that every time we eat bread or drink wine we are to remember Christ. Consider particularly the wording of 1 Cor. 11:25, "This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me" (NKJV). Interestingly, in the Eastern tradition, there is one liturgy which, like the Catholic liturgy, has the epiklesis worded with something like "transform this bread and wine into your body and blood," but a different liturgy (used on different days in the calendar) has a wording more like "reveal this bread and wine to be your body and blood."

Of course, I am not Eastern Orthodox, and my own sacramental theology actually has strong baptist leanings, but I find this characteristic of the Orthodox tradition interesting, because I do think the text in 1 Corinthians refers to every time we eat bread or drink wine (or grape juice probably counts too).