Church Order, General Worship, Leading Worship
Weekly Communion Without Ordained Pastor Present?
January 4, 2022
5 comments 495 views
We are hoping to move to weekly communion at our church. There is currently one Minister of the Word and an unordained pastoral intern (me). The two of us share the pulpit so that we can focus on other aspects of church life during our non-preaching weeks, as well as enjoy a Sunday service from the pew with our families.
We would like to have communion every week as a result of a study done on the sacrament by the church last year. But since only one of us is ordained, that requires the pastor to be present every Sunday to administer the sacrament. This is not a problem when he is around, but it means that on the Sunday's where he is either on holiday or providing pulpit supply within our classis, we cannot come to the table as there is no one in our congregation that can currently fulfill the requirements to lead this sacrament.
I was wondering if there were any stories out there of ways in which we can celebrate communion weekly, without our ordained minister present, while still honouring church order (since we have an ordained minister, it would not be within church order to request that classis grant an elder permission to lead)?
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Another church I served in moved to weekly communion, and we requested permission from Classis for two of our elders to administer the Lord's Supper on weeks when no ordained Minister was present. The "need" was to maintain weekly service of the sacraments and Classis approved this need. They approved our request at that time. I don't think church order prevents you from asking Classis for this kind of approval, especially if your study has led you to move towards weekly communion as a congregation. Classis is supposed to support the ministry of your congregation and this is one way in which they can do that.
Quite often the rules of church order seem to be too restrictive. The advice of Benjamin Gresik is sound. I would refer you to Henry DeMoor's commentary: Christian Reformed Church Order. Article 55 allows for "in the case of need, for an ordained person who has received the approval of classis". That would cover you or another elder, IMHO. Ministers of the Word are tasked with administration of the sacraments, but consider... The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized by (gasp!) a deacon! Bottom line, the sacraments are not about who administers but the Who that is celebrated.
Good afternoon everyone, and a good remaining one:
I read with interest the article on “Communion without a Pastor”. I will respond with a brief note.
Personally I have always favoured an elder to have equal participation in the sacraments as the pastor. In the important tradition of the Reformation we have always held the view that the sacraments are subservient to the preaching of the Word, this in that total distinction with the RC church where sacraments are held superior, & thus left only for the priest to conduct.
If we allow an elder to read/give a message when needed, & we have no difficulty with that fact, something I very much agree with. Yet in my understanding the sacraments are subservient to the Word, and so the domain to administer should permit an elder to lead as well, & to recognize the Reformed understanding of the sacraments & their role. During my active ministry I never ‘pushed’ this view, but in retrospect I should have.
I will leave off but glad to respond. Regards and best wishes,
This is both on and off topic. Scripturally speaking, there is no precedent for an "ordained" person to officiate. If the origin of the supper was the Passover meal, the one officiating would have been the male host. No requirement that he be a priest or a "rabbi." Indeed, the meal (and it was a meal) was generally held in private homes. This is not even to draw attention to the words, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup..." which would mean annually at the Passover, not quarterly, or monthly, or weekly. If it was not the Passover, then, as well, it would have simply been the host who asked the blessing. The Reformation did not go far enough to divest clergy of their unscriptural privileges. I have argued in more than one circle that as we are not even blessing the elements, let alone believing that some transformation is taking place via the words spoken, there really should be no reason to confine the celebration to clergy.
Being really heretical, one could simply not call it communion/the Lord's Supper/Eucharist. Bless the bread and cup and pass them out, saying nothing more.
To be proper and not stir up controversy, however, permission would be advised. If you were Anglican, the priest would consecrate the elements during worship and then the "reserved" would be given to deacons and others to share with those not present at worship due to being hospitalized, etc.
We have already reduced communion from a full meal to a wee piece of bread and a sip of juice. Time we did an assessment of the whole affair.
Claoing off by saying that while I "play by the rules" I am more concerned with being biblical than denominational.
This sounds like the start of one of those "confessional conversations" a certain CRC pastor keeps advocating for. Thanks for sharing. I do know of at least a few churches who are starting to re-evaluate the way they practice communion. Maybe there's an appetite for a fuller conversation.
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