I’m greatly appreciating the responses to my last couple of posts, on Westminster/Wittenberg and assisted suicide. Do check out those comments threads: some very good thoughts in each of them. I hope to do a couple of posts later this week summarising some of the most helpful points from those threads. (No promises, mind…)
In the meantime, another “crowdsourcing” post, on “irregular” celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. This is partly spurred by a discussion on the BHT concerning “self-service communion” (don’t get me started), but I was musing on the first of these this morning anyway.
Case 1: lay presidency in the ex-Brethren chapel
Back before I joined the Lutheran church, I preached on a few occasions at a small “Christian fellowship” in south-east London. A Baptist pastor friend set up these gigs: the fellowship in question had its origins in the Open Brethren and had never had a full-time pastor. My Baptist friend was one of their regular guest preachers, and also used them as an opportunity for laymen with preaching potential to get some practice.
One legacy of their Brethren past was an admirable commitment to regular Communion services. On two occasions when I preached there, the service was followed by Communion – at which I, as the guest preacher, was asked to preside. With some misgivings – I have even more misgivings in retrospect – I stifled my Anglican scruples about “lay presidency” and presided as requested.
The elements were ordinary white bread and, as I recall, actual alcoholic wine (in a common cup). I read the words of institution from 1 Corinthians 11, added some thoughts based on the Heidelberg Catechism (this being my “high Calvinism” phase), and then the bread and cup were passed around between the members of the congregation.
My questions here are: (1) was this truly the Lord’s Supper, with the Lord’s body and blood present under the bread and wine (not that any of us there would have realised if it had been), and (2) how wrong, on a scale from 1 to 10, was I to do this? Clearly this was highly irregular from a Lutheran point of view, though it could be argued I was acting on the “call” of the congregation rather than presuming to act on my own initiative. (From an RC or Anglo-Catholic perspective, of course, this was not merely irregular but “invalid”. For what it’s worth, my answer is “wrong but forgiven” – I wish I hadn’t done it, but my conscience isn’t troubled over it.)
Case 2: the CU communion service
A similar case my wife mentioned to me over dinner, when I mentioned* the self-service communion thing (* that’s “mentioned” as in “started ranting about”). At university, the college Christian Union (of which E was a member – I was still making Richard Dawkins blanch at the fervour of my atheism) would occasionally celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Let’s assume that the words of institution featured.
So in this case we have a group of students, all laypeople, celebrating the Supper among themselves. Much the same questions as before: is this truly the Lord’s Supper, and are they right to do this?
Over to you!