The Lord’s Table is Open to All
At Epworth, we regularly celebrate Holy Communion as a means of growing closer with God and sharing in the mystery of God’s presence with us. Below we try to answer some common questions, but please know the most important thing is: Everyone is welcome because this is God’s holy meal!
How often does Epworth receive communion?
We celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month. Communion is also celebrated on special days of the year, such as Christmas and Easter.
Who can receive Communion?
The table of Holy Communion is Christ’s table, not the table of Epworth. The table is open to anyone who seeks to respond to Christ’s love and to lead a new life of peace and love, as the invitation to the table says.
Our Book of Worship says, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive” (page 29). This statement means that in practice there are few, if any, circumstances in which a United Methodist pastor would refuse to serve the elements of Holy Communion to a person who comes forward to receive.
By Water and the Spirit affirms: “Because the table at which we gather belongs to the Lord, it should be open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership. The Wesleyan tradition has always recognized that Holy Communion may be an occasion for the reception of converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace.”
Is communion really become the body and blood of Jesus?
This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion, the official statement on communion, says, “The Christian church has struggled through the centuries to understand just how Christ is present in the Eucharist. Arguments and divisions have occurred over the matter. The Wesleyan tradition affirms the reality of Christ’s presence, although it does not claim to be able to explain it fully.”
In short, we don’t know what happens when God’s Spirit joins in the sacrament of Communion — it’s a mystery (that’s what the word “sacrament” means) and we’re okay with celebrating this gift without understanding every single details.
Can someone who is not baptized receive Communion?
Yes! We practice “Open Communion,” which means everyone is welcome. There are no qualifiers other than a desire to know God.
By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism
“Because the table at which we gather belongs to the Lord, it should be open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership. The Wesleyan tradition has always recognized that Holy Communion may be an occasion for the reception of converting, justifying, and sanctifying grace. Unbaptized persons who receive communion should be counseled and nurtured toward baptism as soon as possible.”
This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion
“Nonbaptized people who respond in faith to the invitation in our liturgy will be welcomed to the Table. They should receive teaching about Holy Baptism as the sacrament of entrance into the community of faith– needed only once by each individual– and Holy Communion as the sacrament of sustenance for the journey of faith and growth in holiness– needed and received frequently.”
Can children receive communion?
Absolutely! In The United Methodist Church, children are welcome to receive communion. Our Book of Worship explains, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.”
By Water and the Spirit: A United Methodist Understanding of Baptism, our statement on baptism, says, “Because the table at which we gather belongs to the Lord, it should be open to all who respond to Christ’s love, regardless of age or church membership.”
Parents may decide when their child can begin receiving communion. The article “How Should Parents and the Church Welcome Children to the Lord’s Supper?” helps parents and congregations develop appropriate ways to welcome children to the Lord’s table.
Why do we use grape juice?
In the history of the church, wine has been the normal drink for Holy Communion. In the 19th century, Methodists and other denominations were persuaded that the unfermented juice of the grape was an important witness to the grace of God and of the churches resistance to the abuses of alcoholic beverage. At Epworth, we continue in this historic witness and support of all who wish to receive Communion.
This Holy Mystery, the official statement on communion, says, “Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and many Protestant denominations have always used wine in the Eucharist. During the movement against beverage alcohol in the late nineteenth century, the predecessor bodies of The United Methodist Church turned to the use of unfermented grape juice… (The term wine is used in this document because of its biblical and historical antecedents, although United Methodists customarily serve unfermented grape juice in Holy Communion.)”
The United Methodist Book of Worship says, “Although the historic and ecumenical Christian practice has been to use wine, the use of unfermented grape juice by The United Methodist Church and its predecessors since the late nineteenth century expresses pastoral concern for recovering alcoholics, enables the participation of children and youth, and supports the church’s witness of abstinence.”
(The United Methodist Book of Worship. Copyright © 1992 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.)