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 or Eucharist, meaning “thanksgiving,” 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 wine represent 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.
What words are 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?
A variety of practices are found in the United Church of Christ, including the sharing of a common loaf or the use of individual wafers or cubes of bread and the sharing of a common cup or of individual cups either at the Table or in the pews. Intinction (dipping the bread in the wine) is also an acceptable practice
Who may receive Communion?
In most United Church of Christ local churches, the Communion Table is “open to all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God’s people.” Children may receive Communion in our church.
How often is Communion served?
In the early church Communion was served weekly. While no one pattern prevails in the United Church of Christ, we usually serve communion the first Sunday of each month. Communion is served from time to time at special holy services such as Maundy Thursday.