On the first Sunday of most every month we gather around the Lord’s Table in worship; to give thanks to God, to remember Christ’s passion and death, and to meet him in the here and now, present by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our celebration of Communion in October carries with it an extra recognition, that of the global nature and practice of the sacrament. On this first Sunday of October we gather not just with those present in the sanctuary and those watching on the livestream, but with Christian churches around the world, from a whole host of traditions and denominations to celebrate World Communion Sunday.
World Communion Sunday has its roots in the Presbyterian Church, specifically Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA. 89 years ago, in 1933, Rev. Hugh Thompson Kerr, then pastor of Shadyside, began the practice as a way to showcase the diversity and unity of the church in all its expressions around the world. Three years later the celebration was adopted by the Presbyterian Church (US), a predecessor denomination to the PC(USA). It didn’t take much longer till the practice of World Communion Sunday was adopted by the predecessor body to the National Council of Churches in 1940. From there the practice continued to spread around the world.
A beautiful and important reason for this celebration is that it reminds us both of the diverse nature of humanity and thus God’s Church and also the power of the sacrament to unite us not only with Christ, but with one another as well. Every title for this sacrament tells us something about the meaning of the Supper and also what happens when we come to the table in faith. The title of Holy Communion is no different. In this naming we proclaim the power of God in the bread and cup to unite us with Christ and the power of God to unite us with one another. Thus we commune with Christ and one another when we eat the bread and drink from the cup.
A beautiful articulation of this communion comes from one of our Communion liturgies, where we pray:
By your Spirit make us one with Christ
and with all who share this feast,
united in ministry in every place.
As this bread is Christ’s body for us,
send us out to be the body of Christ in the world.
Our unity with Christ and with one another are intertwined and as shown in the Supper not limited by time or place. So as we come to the table this World Communion Sunday let us remember that we are a part of a larger whole, a Church that spans the world, united by nothing and no one less than Jesus our Lord and the power of the Spirit. Glory to God for this beautiful and blessed mystery.