Our interim minister has suggested that perhaps our congregation should offer a communion service once a month either before or after the main service. It is an interesting suggestion to me because the lack of a communion service is one of the reasons my husband would not feel comfortable joining our congregation; not the only one, but one of them. The fact that our congregation calls itself a church at all makes some of our members who did not grow up as Christians and some who are atheists or agnostics very uncomfortable. I have a feeling that offering communion once a month would not be a welcome change for them, even if it is not part of the main service.
Having grown up in a Christian church but no longer considering myself a Christian, I can understand the strong feelings people have about communion. Most Unitarian Universalist congregations celebrate flower communion or water communion, and while I enjoy these worship experiences, they just do not fill the void that was once filled by Christian communion. I would welcome a meaningful communion service that is centered on the teachings and life of Jesus. While I reject most of the Christian doctrine, I cannot reject Jesus or what his life and teachings have meant to my life. Communion is a powerful way of remembering his sacrifice, not to save me from my sins, but to reach out in love to people unconditionally and completely, even to reach out in love to those who greeted him with hate, fear, ignorance, bigotry, torture and death. I don’t believe he rose bodily from the grave, but I do believe this spirit of love is eternal. Communion is a way to remember this powerful example of love in our world, love that can help us overcome all the ways we hurt ourselves and each other, love that allows us to forgive others and most of all to forgive ourselves and start anew. For me, communion is about celebrating the power of love as shown through the life and teachings of Jesus. It is about rededicating myself to reaching out in love to those around me, even when I do not feel it in return. It is about connecting with my many Christian ancestors, family members and friends who have blessed me with the spirit of unconditional love that they found through following the example and teachings of Jesus.
I understand that for others communion reflects everything they have rejected in Christianity; the sacrifice of Jesus for forgiveness of sins, the one and only one true way to heaven, the concept of hell and the need to have an intermediary save them from it, etc.
I don’t like those associations with communion either. I once went to a Brethren communion service that included feet washing. For me, this was one of the most meaningful services I have ever attended. It wasn’t about a sacrifice made to save us from an eternal hell, but about the unconditional love that can transform the world as shown to us through the example of Jesus.