World Communion Sunday 2017 — Planning Notes

October 1, 2017 (Year A)
by Taylor Burton-Edwards

Order of Worship Preaching Hymns Planning Additional Resources


Reading Notes

NRSV texts, artwork and Revised Common Lectionary Prayers for this service are available at the Vanderbilt Divinity Library.
Leccionario en Español, Leccionario Común Revisado: Consulta Sobre Textos Comunes.
Lectionnaire en français, Le Lectionnaire Œcuménique Révisé

Calendar Notes

World Communion Sunday 
The color from now until Advent is green, with two exceptions: All Saints Day or Sunday (November 1 or 5)  and Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday (November 26).   

September 15-
October 15      Hispanic Heritage Month (USA)

All Month           A Season of Saints (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 1         World Communion Sunday
October 6-8     Children’s Sabbath (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 15       Laity Sunday (2017 resources forthcoming)
October 31       Reformation Day (500th Anniversary)

November 1
       All Saints Day
November 3       World Community Day
November 5       All Saints Sunday
                            Daylight Saving Time Change Song (Fall)
November 11     Veterans Day
November 12    Organ and Tissue Donor Sunday
                           International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
November 19    Bible Sunday (National Bible Week November 19-26)
November 23    Thanksgiving Day
November 26    Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday
                           United Methodist Student Day

December 1      World AIDS Day
December 3      Advent-Christmas Series (Year B) Begins (Forthcoming)
December 21    
Longest Night/Blue Christmas
December 24    Christmas Eve (evening)
December 25    
Christmas Day
December 26    Kwanzaa
December 31    Watch Night/New Year’s Eve


January 1        New Year’s Day/Holy Name of Jesus
January 7        Epiphany Sunday AND Baptism of the Lord
                         Season after Epiphany Series Begins (Forthcoming)
January 11      
Human Trafficking Awareness Day
January 14      Human Relations Day (Special Sunday with Offering)
January 15      
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
January 18-25 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
January 21      Ecumenical Sunday

All Month       Black History Month
February 11   Transfiguration of the Lord
                        Scouting Sunday

February 14   Ash Wednesday
                        Lent Series Begins (forthcoming)
February 19  
Presidents Day


This week and next, we depart from offering our usual resourcing in series. These two services are entirely stand-alone.

The program calendar of The United Methodist Church commits us to three consecutive programmatic observances over these three weeks — World Communion Sunday, Children’s Sabbath, and Laity Sunday. They are significantly diverse in origin, constituencies aimed at, and theme, and so do not lend themselves to inclusion in a series if their distinctive emphases are also to be addressed as part of worship at all. We resume our series-based offerings with Laity Sunday, using that day (which departs from the lectionary texts) to launch a three-week miniseries, “Habits of Hospitality.”

While we are giving due weight to the program Sundays, we seek to do so in a way that generally honors and reflects the priority of the Scriptures for the day rather than the programmatic emphasis per se. 

World Communion Sunday was started in 1940 as a Presbyterian-led initiative of the Federal Council of Churches toward ecumenical celebration of Communion by some Protestants in the United States on the same Sunday at a time when most U.S. Protestant denominations celebrated Communion infrequently (quarterly at most), and rarely on the same schedule. Not all churches involved in the Federal Council at the time chose to participate, but there was fairly strong uptake by Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists (now known as UCC), and some Baptist groups at the time. These, in turn, generally promoted the idea across their missionary networks outside the United States so there would be more of a feel of worldwide Communion on that day, even if the practice was (and remains) in fact largely limited to a few U.S. Protestant denominations.

Among those Protestant churches prominently absent from World Communion Sunday observance are Lutherans (generally) and Anglicans (Episcopalians). There is also no such observance in Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America observes a variant called “Global Church Sunday,” which focuses on the global connections of ELCA rather than on a worldwide practice of Holy Communion on that Sunday.

United Methodists worldwide continue the practice, as do the Methodist churches outside the United States we and our predecessor denominations autonomized in the twentieth century. We also mark this observance with a special offering that supports scholarships worldwide and in the U.S. and ethnic in-service training programs. 

In the Season

Today’s service is an opportunity to recognize the ways God answers our prayer at the Great Thanksgiving: “Make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” What is most evident from the Scriptures for today, as well as the struggles of our cultures worldwide, is how often we erect our own barriers to God’s bountiful provision for us in and through the sacraments. Rather than serving Christ “in union with the church Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races,” we live in and perpetuate great disharmony, complaining against one another rather than forgiving one another and letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. So today is an opportunity to see God’s bounteous provision and God’s boundless readiness to answer our prayer at the Eucharist, to confess our failures, and to seek to live into our baptismal vow and God’s hope for us more fully.

The music suggested for today reflects some of the diversity of our worldwide church. It comes from four continents: Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. Whatever you choose to sing this Sunday, let it reflect a similar breadth of diversity.

The Great Thanksgiving provided in this service order is in English, and it is intentionally more interactive than our “standard” ritual, in keeping with the call for such models of more interactive prayers at the Lord’s Table in This Holy Mystery. Feel free to translate it as needed. Or use our Korean-English Bilingual Great Thanksgiving or one of the other Great Thanksgivings for World Communion Sunday on our website. 

There is a practice among some congregations to fill the Lord’s Table with multiple loaves of many kinds of bread on this day. While this may help symbolize our global diversity, it also means, in many cases, we are wasting a lot of bread. It also makes it nearly impossible to “consume or reverently dispose” of what remains, as we are directed in This Holy Mystery. We encourage, instead, finding other ways to symbolize our global community — including beyond the United Methodist Church — and provide simply enough bread for your congregation’s use on the Lord’s Table. 

Additional Resources for this Service

2014 Planning Helps for these readings

Ecumenical Prayer Cycle: Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela

Categories: Year A, Seventeenth Sunday After the Pentecost — October 1, 2017

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