Flash Communion at General Synod 28

Written by Joel on July 4th, 2011

Here is a communion service that happened at the United Church of Christ General Synod this weekend.

I appreciate the underlying desire for an unpredictable in-breaking of the spirit through a spontaneous worship service. And an extra communion service in the UCC? I know UCCers who go kicking and screaming at any suggestion of more Communion than is absolutely necessary. So yeah, I am all for the celebration of communion.

But I have my reservations about this particular service. It would appear that the main thrust of this service was welcome alone. Is that all that happened at the Last Supper? I seem to remember something else going on that night…but am having a bit of difficulty recalling…

I did not hear an institution narrative nor eucharistic prayer. The words at the fraction were “This is the body of Christ broken in love for you…” And the presentation of the cup: “This is the cup of the new covenant poured out for you and for many.” Did she share Jesus’ communion words, or was she offering words about Communion?

What message is convened when a Juicy-Juice bottle is placed on the communion table; and a disposable plastic cup is used to hold the Blood of Christ?

Does spontaneity require a loss of reverence?

Was this service meant to be a spectacle? What was it’s purpose?

What do you think about the Flash Communion?


 

8 Comments so far ↓

  1. Eric says:

    Joel,

    I watched the video and had very similar thoughts to what you did. The real problem I had with it was the applause at the end. As Heather put it, “they seem very proud of themselves.” The Eucharist is more than doing something bombastic and radical for the sake of being bombastic and radical. Following Jesus’ command is radical enough and communing on the body and blood is already a HUGE enough deal that we don’t need to add anything to it to make it “special.”

    ~Eric

  2. Eric says:

    Joel, I hope it was clear, this is Eric from the Order retreat. :)

    • Joel says:

      Oh, yes you sure are. Thanks for your comment, I just haven’t had a chance to reply to you yet with trying to keep track of all the other Synod goings ons.

  3. Amanda Hendler-Voss says:

    Hello Joel: As one of the UCC pastors who participated in leading this communion experience, I thought I’d respond to your post. The purpose of the Eucharist, from my perspective, is to re-member the body of Christ to celebrate the love of God, the way in which we are all welcomed to Christ’s table, and to recommit ourselves to participating in the building of the kingdom of which Jesus spoke. More than 100 were served, many of them youth, and I believe it was a deeply meaningful experience for many of us to come to the table in a spontaneous, in-breaking of the Spirit kind of way, at an unexpected time, to remember that Jesus comes too at unexpected times. The video is edited with portions of the words of institution cut out. It gives you a taste of the experience, not the fullness of what happened. I think the notion that we were “proud of ourselves” really gets it wrong. We were celebrating the radical love of Jesus breaking out among us, and it made us feel excited and amazed, and yes…humbled…to be part of this experience. I am glad you are able to express your reservations. I am also glad others were fed at Christ’s table on Sunday morning in a way that was meaningful for them. In Peace,
    Amanda

    • Joel says:

      Thanks Amanda for sharing first-person perspective, I really appreciate it. I would love to see a full video if one is available (though, this one is edited very well).

      May I expand our dialog:
      Would it be fair to say that the primary focus of this Eucharistic celebration was “welcome”? – given the lengthy words of invitation.
      Do you believe that there are any requirements to commune (such as baptism)? If not, what do you make of the Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 11? Baptism allusions in 1 Cor 10?
      If this is meant to be a gesture of welcome, would another narrative be more appropriate than the Last Supper (such as the feeding of the 5 thousand)?

      I do appreciate the underlying purpose of this service. And I’ll declare my prejudicious as coming from a liturgical UCC tradition (E&R) which will certainly flavor my perception.

  4. Nicolette Siragusa says:

    I know this is 2 years old, but as Synod is coming, I was looking for a copy of this video, and as the one who is seen presiding, I want to respond.
    1. A flash mob had been organized to sing and dance. In reflecting with a small group, we heard God’s call to share a surprising God moment in spontaneous worship. For the 25 or so of us who knew what was happening, it was planned, for everyone else, surprising.
    2. This was organized for Sunday morning, which happened to be the first Sunday of the month, when many people would have participated in the Eucharist in their home congregations. Instead, they were in committee meetings. There was no worship planned for that morning, and no organized trips to local churches (as there had been in CT, for example). The service was timed to ‘call people to the table’ through music as their committee hearings let out. It was meant to be a time of reconciliation and reunification as the body of Christ after some difficult discussions.
    3. The video was taken and edited by the professional videographers at Synod. They showed up when they heard the singing, but honestly we had not intended on it being recorded (perhaps a mistake on our parts). It’s true that there were formal words of institution that were edited out, among other sections – at 15 minutes, it would have been far too long for internet attention spans. It was beautiful and rich and sacred – wish you could have been there.

    • Joel says:

      Yes! Those comments and behind the scenes insights answer many of the questions I raised. It is certainly surprising that the Synod did not plan Sunday morning worship, how terribly odd for a Christian gathering. Thank you for the call to worship.

      I do wish I could have been there. And again, I must stress that I meant no negative connotation to the event, I do enjoy raising the questions and seeking reflection on what we do has church.

  5. Nicolette Siragusa says:

    Oh – and regarding what we used – we worked with what we could find. no one had brought communion sets in their luggage. the stoles we were wearing were borrowed from vendors in the exhibit hall, but no one was willing to let us borrow communion sets. the problem with spontaneous spirit-led worship is that sometimes you have to make do.

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