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52 Churches

Saturday Evening Mass

A few months ago, we went to church on Saturday morning. Now we head off for a Saturday evening mass.

Consider these four discussion questions about Church #50

1. The worship leader directs us to “page one in the white book,” but what we find doesn’t match what they say. We’re confused and can’t follow along. 

How can you make it easier for people to participate in your service?

2. For the Eucharist, the priest says nothing about nonmembers, though I know we’re excluded. Still, I can have the spiritual encounter of Holy Communion without physically taking part. 

How can you serve Communion in a way that includes everyone?

3. The tradition of sharing the chalice still disgusts us. Most participants receive the wafer and bypass the cup. I suppose some must avoid alcohol, while for others it’s a sanitary issue. 

What traditions should you change to address the concerns of today’s visitors?

4. Afterward I chat briefly with the priest. He knows we’re visiting but doesn’t ask our names. This might be because a member hovers about, anxious to talk to him. Though I don’t feel slighted, many people would. 

What behaviors do you need to change to be more visitor-focused?

[See the prior set of questions, the next set, or start at the beginning.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

A Simple Gesture (Visiting Church #32)

We ascend the steps of the church, and a gregarious woman approaches. She’s wearing a white vestment, and I spy a clerical collar underneath. We’ve never been received so cordially.

She thanks us for visiting and asks if we’re familiar with the Episcopal Church. We say no. She smiles broadly, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” She quickly scans the sanctuary. “Our services can be hard to follow if you’re not used to them, so I’m going to seat you by someone who can guide you.”

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

She introduces us to a couple our age and explains the situation. I sit next to the husband, and he’s eager to help.

The choir starts our service, and he cues me on the liturgy as we bounce between two books, often in quick succession. Plus, we sing one song from the bulletin. The priest also provides verbal cues when possible. My new friend takes his assignment seriously and performs it admirably.

The simple gesture touches me. It makes so much sense, but no one’s ever done this for us before.

After a short message is the Holy Eucharist. Open to all, the priest thoroughly explains the process. When we go up, if we just want to receive a blessing, we cross our arms over our chest and she will bless us.

To partake in the Eucharist we receive the bread (and it really is bread, not a cracker). Then we proceed to the wine, where we can dip the bread or drink from the cup. Most dip their bread and so do we.

Though we’re growing to understand liturgical services, they’re still daunting. Having someone to guide us is most helpful and much appreciated.

The service ends. I sincerely thank our guide for his assistance; today was good.

Having someone to guide us is most helpful and much appreciated. Click To Tweet

[Read about Church #31 and Church #33, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #32.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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52 Churches

Catholicism, Part 2 (Visiting Church #18)

The sanctuary of this Roman Catholic Church is grand without being ostentatious. Modern and airy, it seats several hundred, with pews arrayed in four sections, each group angled to face the front. Behind the platform is an impressive marble wall with a large crucifix at its center.

To one side, at floor level, is a statue of Mary.

52 Churches, by Peter DeHaan

As people enter, most dip their fingers in a vessel of water mounted by each door and touch their foreheads. Some then turn towards the crucifix, bowing slightly. Many, upon reaching their desired pew, quickly drop to one knee (genuflect) in the aisle. Once seated, about half flip down the kneeling rail.

Some kneel as a quick ritual, while others linger in pious contemplation. For each of these actions, making the sign of the cross is a common conclusion.

Perhaps my memories of Church #5 have faded, but this Roman Catholic gathering seems more steeped in ritual, with a service that’s harder to follow. While the hymns are announced, the rest of the liturgy proceeds without direction. We think we’re prepared, but we aren’t.

Some of the service uses a “Mass Prayer and Response” card and other parts use “Today’s Missal,” while much of the service follows neither, though perhaps we aren’t looking in the right place at the right time.

Much ritual surrounds the presentation of the Eucharist. Once again, I’m so fixated on the process that I miss contemplating its meaning. Then the service ends.

[Read about Church #17 and Church #19, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #18.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Not Another Communion Sunday

We Should Celebrate the Lord’s Supper to Remember What Jesus Did for Us

Holy Communion (also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is a time of celebration. In this we remember what Jesus did for us when he died in our place for the things we did wrong. In doing so, he reconciled us with the Father.

His act of ultimate love for us is the foundation of our Christian faith.

Given this, you’d think I’d look forward to another Communion Sunday. I don’t.

Though I try to anticipate the Lord’s Supper, enjoy its rich symbolism, and connect with God, I struggle. I most always fall short. When I take communion, God seems distant—at the very time we should be the closest

The problem for me is the ritual. I know that some of you relish the ritual of the Eucharist. You find deep, profound meaning in its practice. I’m so happy for you. Unfortunately, the repetition of the ritual pushes me away. It serves as a wedge between God and me.

Not Another Communion Sunday

A few weeks ago, I walked into church and saw it configured for communion. I groaned inwardly. “Not another Communion Sunday.” At least I hope it was inwardly.

This church seems to practice communion about once a month. Sometimes the message connects with it, albeit in a tangential form, and other times it doesn’t—or if it does, I miss it. The Lord’s Supper unfolds not so much as a celebration but as an obligation. It’s mechanical. It’s something to check off our to-do list before we wrap up the service.

I’ve been to other churches that have Communion about once a quarter, while others do it weekly. And I went to one church that tried doing it every other week.

There they worked to make it significant, but the effect was a mini sermon about communion after we already heard a full-length sermon about something else. My mind wasn’t in a listening mode.

No schedule seems right to me. This is why, when I looked at the biblical history behind communion, I suspected it should be an annual event, just like Passover.

Frequency Isn’t the Issue

At first, I suspected that I’ve simply been to too many Communion services over the years for it to ever be something I’d anticipate and that would connect me with God. Often the church liturgy—whether a formal one or merely a rut that leaders have slipped into—uses the phrase “celebrate Communion.”

Often the church liturgy uses the phrase “celebrate Communion,” but it doesn’t seem like much of a celebration. Click To Tweet

Celebration, however, seems far from what takes place. If someone told me they wanted to celebrate my birthday and it proceeded like a typical communion service, I would say, “No thank you,” as politely as I could. Then I would do my best to avoid it.

Friday Night Pizza

Something I do look forward to in our family is Friday night pizza. Most every week we get together with our children and grandchildren to share a meal, celebrate life, and enjoy each other’s company. This is the highlight of my week.

For those few weeks where our schedules don’t align, I have a weighty dread that something profound is missing.

Why can’t I anticipate Sunday communion the same way I anticipate Friday night pizza? The reason is they are completely different. One is boring, and the other is exciting.

One unfolds like a solemn funeral march (in the way it is, because, after all, Jesus did die), and the other is a raucous embrace of family. One lasts a few minutes before we leave the church service, and the other can go on for hours as we enjoy community.

The Next Step

If only Sunday Communion could be more like Friday night pizza, then my attitude would be different. I’d approach Communion with expectation and make sure I never missed it.

While some may find offense that I compared the ritual of another Sunday Communion to the joy of my family’s weekly practice of Friday night pizza, we can learn from this. We need to make the first more like the second.

Then communion—which, by the way, started out as part of a meal—can become the celebration it should be.

How we make this happen in a church service, however, presents a significant challenge. There is simply too much ingrained historical baggage to overcome.

That’s why I advocated we bring the celebration of communion into our homes to enjoy with family and friends, as part of a meal, just like the first communion and just like Passover that preceded it.

When we do this, our attitude will shift from moaning “Not another Communion Sunday” to exclaiming “It’s another communion Sunday!”

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Do You Receive Communion?

Depending on your perspective, you may call the sacrament that Jesus started as Communion, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, or Holy Eucharist. Other labels include the Blessed Sacrament and the Sacrament of the Altar.

In my experiences, the first three names are the most common. And the most common verb associated with them is the word receive, as in receive Communion. But it’s not the best word to use. Though it’s not completely wrong, it’s not fully right, either.

When I think of receive, I think of its synonyms: accept, take, have, collect, and get. To say we receive Communion conveys a passive activity; it makes us consumers. Receive is a one way exchange; we hold out our hands and we take.

Instead, Communion should be active, where we partake, experience, and engage. Consider carefully synonyms of these words; meditate on them.

Partake

Participate, share, join

Experience

Feel, face, suffer, undergo

Engage

Involve, occupy, engross, absorb, hold, connect, encounter, battle, contest

Next time we are present for Communion, may we consider—and embrace—these active words. May we grasp a fuller comprehension of this amazing sacrament.

May we never again be content to just receive Communion.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.