Have you ever wondered how some of the business of the church gets done? Like, how do the candles always have oil in them? Who makes sure that there are always people to serve Communion?
We have multiple people in the church who graciously volunteer their time, making sure that some of these tasks get taken care of. For example, Joanne Lee has faithfully served our congregation in making sure that we have volunteers scheduled to serve Communion. She has provided a wonderful service to our ministry!
At the end of 2018, Joanne concluded this responsibility and Janelle Groteluschen has volunteered to carry the mantle. As we’ve gone through this minor transition, it has been the catalyst for our Session to revisit the Book of Order and our policies about who can serve Communion.
Section W-3.0414 of our Book of Order states, “Ordinarily, ruling elders, deacons, and ministers of the Word and Sacrament serve the bread and cup; the session may authorize other church members to do so.” While this language is open and permission-giving to congregations, just about every church has their own established way of deciding who can serve the Communion elements. Some allow anybody who volunteers, while others only allow current elders. From my knowledge, our church seems to have the historical practice that only ordained elders are able to serve the Communion elements.
Now let me be clear, when we are talking about “serving” the Communion elements, we are not talking about what happens when the pastor presides over the Lord’s table, offering a prayer of thanksgiving, inviting the congregation to the table, and sharing the words of institution. Serving Communion refers to the physical act of handing the bread and cup to individuals in the congregation.
As you might be thinking, many of us has served the Communion elements. We serve them when we pass them to the person next to us, we’ve served them when we’ve celebrated Communion in round tables, and many have served as elders, offering the bread and cup to pews of people or individuals in the second service when they come forward.
After studying this passage, our session decided to make an official motion to add some clarity. We decided to make it clear through a motion that deacons can serve Communion, too. While this has already been the case in our Book of Order, we wanted a motion to reflect the decision of our session, the entity ultimately responsible for the planning of our worship services.
This means that current and past elders and deacons are eligible to serve Communion in any service of worship. Some of you may have thought that you were not qualified to serve Communion. Let this newsletter article serve as an invitation to you.
Austin D. Hill