What is Holy Communion?
Holy Communion, also called the Lord’s Supper, is one of two sacraments in the United Methodist Church. It is the sacrament of nurture, in which we gather around a table and ingest bread and wine as symbols for feeding our spiritual selves so that we can grow in our relationship with God. The other sacrament,Baptism, is the Sacrament of identity.
Why do United Methodists call this sharing of bread and cup by different names, such as Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharist?
Using different names acknowledges that no single name can contain the richness of meaning in this sacred act. Each name is taken from the New Testament and highlights certain facets of the sacrament. Calling it the Lord’s Supper reminds us that it is a meal instituted by the Jesus our Lord and hosted by him at his table whenever it takes place. Calling it Holy Communion reminds us that it is an act of the most holy and intimate sharing, making us one with Jesus Christ and part of his body, the church. Calling it the Eucharist, a term taken from the New Testament Greek word meaning thanksgiving, reminds us that giving thanks to God for all that God has done is an essential part of the meal.
What do United Methodists mean when they call this act a sacrament?
United Methodists believe the sacraments are ordained by Christ and they are symbols and pledges of both the Christian’s faith and God’s love toward us. A sacrament uses an ordinary object like bread to make visible something extraordinary like God’s grace. Some call a sacrament a means of grace because through the sign-act, we are tapping into the strength and grace that God offers. Baptism and Holy Communion are the two sacraments of the United Methodist Church. The Latin word sacramentum means oath and was a Roman soldier’s pledge of allegiance. One way to look at a sacrament is that it is God’s pledge of love and faithfulness to us and our answering pledge of allegiance to God.
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in the sacrament?
No, but we do believe that Christ is truly present at the communion table by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we believe that God’s grace is always available in this sacrament. The bread and the juice are elements of nourishment in daily life and they signify the spiritual nourishment we receive from Christ. Participating in this sign- act enables us be Christ’s body in the world today, bringing hope, healing, reconciliation and love to places that desperately need it. We pray over the bread and the cup, invoking the power of the Holy Spirit, to may make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in service to all the world.
If I am not a member of a United Methodist congregation, am I invited to receive Holy Communion in a United Methodist Church?
Yes! It is the Lord’s Supper, not ours, and we believe that the host of the Supper invites people to receive the sacrament. As our ritual puts it: “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.” We do not refuse any who present themselves desiring to receive. Whether you will receive Communion with us is between you and God but we are happy to talk with you more about it if you call the church office and leave a message for one of the ministers.
I do not wish to receive Communion because doing so would be disloyal to my religion or my denomination. May I attend a United Methodist Communion service and not receive Communion?
Yes. Simply remain seated when others go forward. You may choose to use this as a time of prayer or a time to read from the Bibles that are available in each pew.
Should I receive the Communion if I feel unworthy?
Two thousand years ago Jesus ate with sinners and those whom others scorned. He still does. None of us is worthy, except by God’s grace. Thank God we don’t have to earn worth in God’s eyes by our goodness or our faith. Your sacred worth, and ours, is God’s gift. No matter what you have done or what your present condition, if you want Christ in your life you are welcome at his table. Communion provides the opportunity for you to confess your sins, to receive forgiveness, and to indicate your intention to lead a new life.
May young children receive Communion?
Certainly. As The United Methodist Book of Worship puts it, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children are invited to receive the bread and cup.” (p.29) We remember that when some of Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children away from him he said: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14 NRSV).
But do young children know what they are doing when they receive Communion?
No, they do not understand the full meaning of this holy sacrament and neither do any of us. It is a wonderful mystery. Likewise, children cannot understand the full significance of family meals, but we feed them at our family tables. Young children experience being loved by being fed. They sense the difference between being included and excluded at a family meal. They have the faith, appropriate to their stage of development, which Jesus recognized and honored: “Whoever does not receive thekingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15 NSRV).
How does one receive Communion at Alton UMC?
Prior to COVID-19, we usually offered Holy Communion by coming forward up the center aisle to receive bread and dip the bread into the cup or chalice. This method of dipping the bread into the common cup is called intinction. The best response to receiving the bread and the cup is to say “Amen” which means “Yes, I believe the body and blood of Jesus were given for me.” You may then return to your seats. If you are unable to come forward for any reason, but you wish to receive communion, simply raise your hand as we scan the Sanctuary and we will bring it to you.
For the foreseeable future, you will come forward from the center isle, receive the bread in your hand and a cup. You will continue back to your seats. Remember if you are unable to come forward for any reason, but you wish to receive communion, simply raise your hand as we scan the Sanctuary, and we will bring communion to you.
I am intolerant or allergic to gluten. Can I receive Communion?
Yes. We can arrange for Gluten free bread and juice that has not been in contact with gluten are offered every time we serve communion. You will need to let the Church office know before the Sunday service.
If someone in my family wishes to receive Communion but cannot come to the church service, can Communion be brought to them?
Yes. As an extension of the congregation’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Communion is taken to persons who wish to partake but cannot attend the service. This can be done by the pastor or other clergy, or by designated laypersons. Please notify the church office to request.
Is Communion possible at weddings, at healing services, or at funerals or memorial services?
Yes. If you wish to arrange this, talk with the pastor.