25 January 2022 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
Is it appropriate to take communion/eucharist when visiting a church of a different denomination? As a musician I have been blessed to perform for various, God-fearing congregations of other denominations, but I am aware that many hold different beliefs as to what the communion emblems mean, and I wasn’t sure if that should prohibit me from participating or not.
Signed, Communing at communion
Many faith communities, including ours, practice open communion, meaning that if you are a baptized Christian of any “brand” you can take the Lord’s Supper with us. Our theology is that sharing the bread and wine is a mark of fellowship in Jesus, not of a denominational identity, so should be available to everyone. (Most Adventist pastors won’t refuse communion to anyone except sometimes, oddly, to our own unbaptized children.)
Other churches practice closed communion, which means that if you’re not a member of the congregation or the denomination, or believe certain things, they prefer you not to participate—though again, many congregations don’t make a big deal about it.
Here are the three considerations, and a fourth minor one, that you should take into account:
- First, do you feel in a community of fellow lovers of Jesus among these folks? Your letter seems to say that, after participating in worship music and making friends among them, you do.
- Second, will they allow you to? When Aunty attends other churches, she asks someone. “I’m a baptized Protestant Christian, but not a member here. Can I take the Lord’s Supper with you?” She has never been refused but once, by a grouchy Roman Catholic priest who told her that taking communion in his church meant that she swore allegiance to the pope. Whether that was true or not (one of his fellow priests immediately argued the point with him, and later apologized to Aunty), she politely stepped aside.
- Third, does the differing understanding of the bread and wine bother you? Some Christians teach that the bread and wine spiritually become the body and blood of Christ, and confer salvation by ingesting it. This isn’t how Aunty understands it, but she believes that what it means to the recipient is what matters. Because Aunty in every case receives the bread and wine reverently and gratefully, as a symbol of Jesus’ death and her solidarity with fellow Christians, she feels comfortable receiving it even when those she’s worshipping with attach another meaning to it..
- Finally, some Adventists may object to the ingestion of actual wine. Just remember that the amount of alcohol in communion wine is less than that cough syrup you’ve got in the medicine cabinet—and you take less of it than you do the cough syrup. However, many churches that use wine also have a “grape juice” line for people who don’t want to use any alcohol at all.
Aunty says if you want to take communion with them, and they have no objection, you should have no compunctions against joining in.
God’s blessings to you as you worship with others,
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—without identification of the writer. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.