One of the reasons I left my beloved old church was a disagreement (one of many) that I had over denominational doctrine. The first time this particular doctrine was revealed to me was at a youth event during which communion was celebrated. I was surprised that my pastor at the time, who I greatly admired and respected, did not partake. After asking why, I was told that it was because the elements (the bread and grape juice) had not been ‘sanctified’ by an ordained minister. (something Buddy O described once as the minister’s ‘holy mojo’).
This surprised me even more because I thought this requirement was unique to Roman Catholicism. Later on the issue was raised again during a church committee meeting (shudder!). We were trying to work out a way for our new pastor to take some time off and visit his original home and family, on the other side of the globe. The great challenge was finding someone who could lead the Sunday worship service in his absence. Our community was blessed with quite a few lay ministers so that shouldn’t have been much of a problem, yet none were ordained (hence the lay prefix). How were the dinner rolls and grape juice going to be ‘sanctified’?
The discussion continued for some time when I (exasperated) suggested that we need not worry about it, that I would perform the needed blessing (attempts at humor are often often lost on church committee members). Some chuckled uneasily, but most were taken aback. One lady even let me know that if anyone other than an ordained elder sanctified the elements then it would not really be ‘communion’ but rather a ‘love feast’. Initially I was excited about this prospect until I found out that no Acapulco Gold would be shared during this ‘love feast’. Shucks!
In the first letter to the Corinthians we have the bible’s earliest account of the last supper. Paul quotes Jesus as saying:
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
With all due respect for those who hold the priestly tradition dear, I don’t hear Jesus saying; “Go forth once week (or maybe just once a month) and find a priest. After he has prayed over some bread and wine, only then may you share in this meal that someday will be called Holy Communion.”
How is it done in your faith community? Do you think that there is a need for ordained clergy to be present in order for us to celebrate this meal, in remembrance and honor of Jesus? Is there something ‘special’ about ministers or priest? Do they have hands that are somehow more holy than ours, or can any believer share in this sacrament directly with God?