This is World Communion Sunday, a service that could certainly stand on its own. It carries enough weight and meaning to not need the support of a larger theme. Many worshiping communities have traditions and practices that accompany World Communion Sunday, and those should remain in place. Let this service be significant in the minds and hearts of the congregation.
As you can see in the 2017 World Communion planning notes, a previous iteration of the worship team believed that World Communion Sunday ought to stand alone and argued that it would be impossible to give the event its due without doing so.
The current team takes a different view. We decided to fold this observance into the larger theme of “Pressing On.” Our intent is to express the belief that the world with which we desire to be in communion is broken and that part of our ongoing hope as followers of Jesus is that we proclaim the kin-dom of God until he comes. We announce the worldwide communion until it becomes a reality. We’re pressing on toward what God has in store.
So, how do we celebrate the world as it is at the same time that we long for the world as it will be? Through connections. The worship team could invite members of the worshiping congregation to share something about their connections and their roots. We are a nation of immigrants; but for many people, immigration may be way back. So, trace those roots. Find out something about the countries of origin; then bring a representation of that origin into the worship space. Perhaps provide a world map with pins in it or images from each nation represented in the make-up of the community—something to expand the world around us.
Some have said that World Communion Sunday was a time when Christians all over the world shared in that celebration of the sacrament. Well, the truth is, a lot of the world doesn’t have an event called World Communion Sunday. So, what we are acknowledging on that day is that the body of Christ is bigger than what we can see, bigger than what is contained within our walls. Many congregations discovered this when they went to an online only format. Reports are that attendance at online worship experiences outstripped the in-person worship numbers in quite a few congregations. And some of these were in other parts of the world. This might be something to celebrate on this World Communion Sunday. Have you identified worshipers who are with you virtually from places other than your local community? If so, how might you introduce them to the local congregation?
Along with this view of the world through connections already present, pay attention to the connections that need to be made. What populations surround the physical building of the church? Who are the scattered people who gather in person and online? How has your community changed in terms of demographic diversity that is not yet reflected in the constituency of the church? What might we learn about the immigrants around us, the citizens who come from other places? How might we create a welcoming space for those who are near us and yet different from us?
Let us celebrate the diversity that is and the diversity that could be. Let’s embrace the fullness of the world that surrounds us. Oh, and that bread thing mentioned in the article from 2017—the one where it had been a practice to gather lots of different loaves of bread from around the world to represent diversity. It can be a great visual image, but it does waste a lot of bread. So, avoid this practice unless you have a plan for sharing it; and in this era of social distancing and disinfecting, that probably isn’t a good idea. Why not make a slideshow of different kinds of bread? Or along with the idea above about finding the roots of various members of the congregation, tie it into a picture of typical breads from that country.
Behind the celebration of diversity is an admission that we are not as diverse as we need to be, as the kin-dom of God will be. So, you could include a confession of homogeneity, even as you long for diversity. We are pressing on to a truer reflection of the kin-dom in our everyday life.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.