Grant Helps Chicago Church Explore Communion in Context

Jesus broke bread and said to his disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me,” in a specific context. The sharing of the Lord’s Supper today also happens in context, and worship committee members at Loop Christian Reformed Church in Chicago, Ill., wanted to explore how the practice of communion intersects with the social and political realities in their city. To give some focused attention to this topic, the congregation applied for and received a 2017 Vital Worship grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

In implementing the project, since attending Calvin’s seminar for this year’s recipients in June, worship committee members have been working on articulating the “theology of the table.” On September 29-30 they sponsored “Communion and Context: Eucharistic Liturgies for Living in a Broken World,” a workshop at Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary.

“One of the big themes of the workshop was hospitality,” said Derek Elmi-Buursma, a student at McCormick who did a field studies placement at Loop CRC and is the project director. “With this kind of theme that all are welcome, we explored . . . how do you ensure that all are welcome? . . . using language like ‘This is not my table, this is not the denomination’s table, but this is Jesus’ table, and Jesus invites you, or invites all who are hungry, here.’”

Elmi-Buursma said the funding—$7,500 for the full project—allowed the workshop to be offered free to participants. About 55 people attended the Friday night talk by Cláudio Carvalhaes, associate professor of worship at Union Theological Seminary in New York. On Saturday, 25 to 30 people attended panel discussions and heard other featured speakers.

More of the funding will be directed to hosting two dinners for leadership at Loop CRC and other area churches to reflect together on the practice of communion, and to inviting guest presiders of different cultural and denominational backgrounds to lead the congregation of Loop CRC in the sacrament over the year. After each service, they plan to include “a question and answer time with the guest presider about their experience of the Lord’s Supper and what has influenced them in the ways they practice and participate in [communion],” Elmi-Buursma said.

Another goal of the year-long project is to create specific liturgies for the Lord’s Supper that could be used and shared with other congregations.

Loop CRC is implementing its project until June 2018, when members will meet again at Calvin Seminary to report to other grant recipients on the past year’s results. The Institute awarded 32 grants in 2017, three to Christian Reformed congregations.

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is a news editor at The Banner.

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