Q Is there a particularly Reformed way of serving the Lord’s Supper? My church recently switched from people partaking communion seated in the pews to going forward to receive the elements. It seems too much like a Roman Catholic practice to me.
A: Rather than focusing on what feels more Reformed or Roman, it might be better to consider a variety of communion practices, what they communicate, and which ones might be most appropriate for your congregation.
In many churches, the elements are passed down the pews, with everyone waiting to partake until all are served. This allows for quiet reflection but not active participation. Some churches have countered by asking people to come forward for the elements—a powerful way of responding to the call to the table, but for some too individualistic. The elements may be passed from person to person, emphasizing the priesthood of all believers in community, or an elder may give the elements directly to worshipers, reminding us that the gift comes from God. Worshipers might kneel as a sign of prayer and contrition, sit to be served as the disciples were served by Christ, or stand in a posture of thanksgiving. Of course, there is no reason a church must use only one of these modes all the time.
In all of these practices, Reformed churches should keep in mind that this sacrament is both a remembrance and a meal to sustain resurrection living. Too often our communion practices feel like “a funeral for Jesus.” Indeed, one word for the Lord’s Supper is Eucharist—thanksgiving. Our celebration of the Table should exude the confidence and joy of those who trust in the completed work of the risen Christ.