The communion meal is a service we have held at Holy Nativity for the last three years. It is a communion service in reverse. It is a place for all ages to gather together around God’s table, to share bread and wine together, to eat together, to explore the bible together and to pray together. It is a place to participate in a family meal with the body of Christ.
The main thing to get right with the communion meal is the setting and the ambiance. The table is set for dinner with a table cloth, placemats and cutlery. We often have bible readings printed and put into plastic menu holders. We begin with the Eucharistic prayer and pass the consecrated bread and wine around the table from one to another. Then food is served. We talk about our lives and our journeys as Christians. A bible reading is shared. There is no teaching as such, more a guided conversation where people explore the scriptures in relation to the modern world, their experiences and lives.
This is the most fascinating part. Young children and pensioners and everyone in between discussing faith together. Eight year old’s asking profound questions of adults and stretching them to think. Adults learning from children and children learning from adults. The dinner table puts everyone on an even footing.
Sometimes there are other activities to do during the meal. Perhaps something that relates to the prayers. Confession and prayer often come from the discussion. Sometimes led by me, the priest. Sometimes led by others around the table. It is an environment that allows people to explore spirituality.
We’ve been holding monthly services like this for over three months. Various people who come cook food. We have had as many as forty (and the food stretched that far) but a core group of about 15. The month that we had forty we had 15 asylum seekers come along unexpectedly. The conversations across culture were fantastic as people learned from each other’s lives. A medical doctor fleeing from Iran sharing with us how he couldn’t use his medical skills in the UK and was living on next to nothing.
For three years, I’ve had people ask for the resources we use. I keep meaning to put them up here but run out of time. There is a placemat which we have laminated. It has all of the essential bits of the liturgy for people around the table. I also have a word document of the key pieces of the liturgy for the priest. I run it off a tablet but you could easily print it off.
A big thanks to Revd Jonnie Parkin who helped me think through some of the issues the Communion Meal raises. I visited the Luminous Community in Lincoln where we both started holding services like this at the same time. His wisdom enabled our community to develop a wonderful sense of community and I value his shared good practice.