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On Worship

It just struck me (spurred by my reading of Leithart's Against Christianity) that this whole business of each person doing as they "feel led" in worship (standing, sitting, clapping, dancing, kneeling) is quite individualistic. Instead of viewing corporate worship as corporate, in that we worship as one body, we view it as corporate, in that we are many individuals Christians worshiping in the same place. Granted, there has to be some room for freedom within the worship (e.g. we can't all sing the exact same pitch), but I think our tendency (in line with the rest of western thought) is to put the individual before the whole.

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Amen! The question is, how do we make it so that worship creates an undeniable sense that we are all worshiping as a body, rather than that we are all individuals in the same place?

I will begin the suggestions by saying that we should get rid of single-serve wafers and single-serve communion cups in favor of one loaf and one cup.

I think this means we need to question the idea of Children's church. I can see how it would be good with very small children. But if a child is old enough to understand, they should probably be with the body worshipping as one. (They are part of our covenant community, right? (*nod, nod wink wink*)

*note: the above comment doesn't really have to do with individuality vs. corporate body in worship (which was what the post was about) but more with just the singular idea of corporate worship. Sorry if I sidetracked, Andrew.

Geez Gray, stop sidetracking the discussion... lol, just kidding friend :).

Anyway, in connection with Gray's comment about children's church, I once heard that they don't really have youth ministries at Bethlehem Baptist, but rather they have family groups. Still trying to decide how I feel about it, I mean it's not as if American youth ministries are wildly successful at what they're doing, but I still feel like there's a lot to be said for meeting with people that are in a similar time of life.

Thanks for posting this Andrew, hadn't thought of it like that before. (And amen to Jacob's comments about communion!)

The church that I'm currently attending uses one (well more like two or three so it doesn't take forever) common cup in their service. I see the symbolism in it, but sometimes I still wonder about the communicable disease factor.
Other suggestions from me would be a more "ritualized" service in which the congregation participates in readings, etc.

Gray and Jake,
I agree that children, as soon as they're old enough to sit still during the Sunday service should take part. However, I don't see that as in conflict with having separate, age-targeted ministries during the week or at a different time on Sunday.

This conversation hasn't been male-dominated, now has it? :)

First of all, I tend to agree with the idea of a one-cup (or 2-3 as Andrew suggested) one-loaf communion. But in this day and age of Purell, it's not very sanitary. On the days that I've gone to afternoon service at the Episcopal church, I dip my bread in the cup, rather than drink from it. You have the option of drinking, but I find this a possibly less germy way to do it.

Second of all: Children's Church. I wholeheartedly agree that children should be a part of the service. But have you tried sitting with a three or four-year-old in a church service? Trying to keep them engaged, mostly quiet, and still pay attention yourself? It's exhausting and can seem futile. One of my professors wrote a book on this very subject, Parenting In the Pew, and is written from a Reformed viewpoint. Also, if you want children to be participants in the service, do you then suggest that pastors make their sermons clear and understandable to children?

I actually like how Grace Chapel handles Communion - two cups (well four, two of juice and two of wine if I remember right) and two loaves (two lines, and it still takes a while).

I don't see that big of a problem with how some churches handle it. My church has individual communion cups and the bread is broken into small pieces. We partake of the elements corporately.

That's probably also another interesting element as to corporate vs inidivual/corporate. Is it just as indivualistic to partake one at a time instead of as all as a whole?

As far as everyone's concern for germs in the one cup, this is actually yet another reason to use real wine, since the alcohol in real wine pretty much many of the germs that might spread anything bad (see a news report here. Not only should we use real wine BECAUSE JESUS DID, but it's also better for health reasons.

And, Lindsey, I hate to disenchant your particular remedy for disease prevention (dipping your bread in the cup), but someone put out a study that says that dipping is actually a worse practice than sipping the cup (a synopsis of the article is here).

So, good luck, and happy partaking of the Lord's Supper!

And there goes my false sense of security. Still, do you intend to suggest these ways of taking the Eucharist (sorry, I like the Catholic word better) at whatever church you attend or pastor? Argue for using bread and wine vs. wafers and tablets and juice?

For what it's worth, I think the standing in two lines way of taking Eucharist is very individualistic. It's usually rather "come as you may" which isn't how we should approach it. This is how we do it at our chapel services, but at the same time I recognize that this? Is a secondary issue of sorts.

I think both Heath and Lindsey raise a good point. With the communal cup/loaf, you do have the communal aspect of everyone eating from the same loaf and drinking of the same cup, but you have everyone partaking on their own at different times. Each person takes his or her own "turn." Passing the elements may be more individualistic in that each person is taking a pre-divided portion (I'm not sure it's that much more individualistic for someone to cut a loaf of bread into pieces than for everyone to tear it into pieces, but that's a sidenote), but it's far more communal in that everyone is partaking at the same time.

At Zion we pass the bread and wine, and everyone takes and holds them, then the pastor says the blessing or whatever (not sure what the technical term is) to the entire body, and everyone partakes at the same time. On occasion (usually at the Good Friday service), we've done it in the way where there are two lines, and you go forward to tear a piece of bread and either dunk it or sip the wine. I've always felt like that was a far more individual experience - just me and the pastor saying the blessing as I take the elements, and then me eating them on my own, whenever I feel like it.

I don't think either method is really better or worse than another.

I meant, "better or worse than the other," not another. I'm sure there are many other ways one could do it that would be worse or better.

I'd just like to say that I really do get the heebie-jeebies at the thought of drinking out of a cup, wine or not, that an old man in front of me might have sneezed in. It really is a hindrance for me, especially needing to be in good health in order to sing well.
So, am I focusing on my needs and fears too much?
I don't think that I'm disadvantaged or missing out on anything with the method of individual portions partaken as a group. I choose, for now, the more sanitary and apparently quicker option of the two.

Just looking at 1 Cor. 10:16-22, I think that there is some theological significance to serving bread from one loaf: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (v. 17). I don't see an exactly corresponding verse for the cup, but I think that it is significant that Paul only refers to "the cup" when talking about the wine (1 Cor. 10:16, 21; 11:25, 26, 27, 28).

I suppose that someone may say that even the single-serving cups participate in the one cup by taking and drinking collectively, but I just really feel that there is a greater significance of drinking from one cup, even if it takes a long time. That's the idealist part of me, though, so I wouldn't want to make this into more than would be helpful for the Church.

I think the single cup/loaf thing would be better if there was a corporate word/blessing from the pastor, and then the loaf and cup were actually passed from person to person. That seems more in line with what would actually have happened at the Last Supper (and I'm assuming probably in early churches, but I have no idea) than the 'stand in a line, having a small private moment with the pastor and return to your seat' style that seems prevalent with the single loaf and cup in churches today.

One observation from Germany is that most people are used to "communing" one another. That is, when they pass the tray or cup to the next person, before the next person eats or drinks, they something like "The body of Jesus, broken for you" or "Jesus's blood, poured out for you." But in German, of course. It does add a personal element to have someone tell you that it was given for you specifically, but again, might tend toward a more individualistic view of things.

I agree with Bethany. And doing it as a congregation seems to affirm the "priesthood of believers" thought, as that is a primary objection from those who prefer not to receive it from a pastor or priest up front. But what about when the church gets too big to do the one loaf one cup thing? If agreeing to that standard are you also committing yourself to keeping a certain size to your church?

You know, if we would just actualize the idea of the communion Pop-Tart, all these problems would be solved. Well, I guess the method of distribution would still be an issue.

The Communion Pop-Tart would cause just as many headaches. Does everyone get a single Pop-Tart? Do we break up the Pop-Tart? What constitutes "one bread" with a Pop-Tart?

Back to prior comments, the "one bread" really can be done even with the passing around to everyone. However, as Lindsey said, you run into a limitation on size. Many churches simply have multiple loaves that are broken up (or that people take pieces off). The wine can come from one bottle, separated into the individual serving glasses, although again at a certain point you have to open another bottle to keep it going.

I probably just repeated a bunch of things, but hey, that's how any discussion tends to go :)

I think the communion Pop-Tart would take something like this to a whole new level.

I think this is interesting. My church in Knoxville does a sort of intermediate step. We go up in groups to take communion, so it's not the whole church at once, but it's also not just the individuals. There's usually six "stations" (one pastor/elder distributing elements), so six groups are getting the elements at a time.

My church is also fairly large (I'd liken it to Zion's size there in Lincoln, though I think mine is a little bit bigger), so doing it individually would take forever. For that matter, doing it one group at a time instead of six groups at a time would take forever.

We have several loaves, from which we each take a piece. The wine/juice is served in individual cups (juice provided for those who choose it).

I just thought I'd throw that out there, since it seems like everyone has been mentioning only "everyone takes at once" or "each person takes individually" ideas. It's not quite so "this-or-that".

Oh, and I also think that jelly donuts (with grape jelly) would fully satisfy all requirements of communion in one neat little package.

Hey, if ya'll are going to talk about the communion Pop-Tart, I have no qualms about suggesting the communion jelly donut.
(I, of course, am joking, but it's a funny thought)

I remember one particularly horrific part in "Girl Meets God" (or perhaps it was one of Lauren Winner's other books) where she talks about how she is a cupbearer during Communion and that as such she has to finish whatever is left in the cup at the end of communion. She describes watching other people's spit slide down the sides of the cup into the wine and knowing she'll have to drink it.

I think there was some spiritual point about something and how it doesn't matter, but the only thing that has stuck with me is the utter grossness of it. I'd probably vomit.

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