Why Every Church Should Have Weekly Sunday Communion Like the Anglicans Do

By |2018-09-05T17:20:15+00:00September 5th, 2018|Categories: Anglican Life|Tags: , , |5 Comments

There was a long period where many Anglican churches didn’t have communion every Sunday. They would have morning prayer for a few weeks, and then a Holy Communion once a month or so.

But a movement called Parish Communion successfully restored the tradition around the world. Today, most (but not all) Anglican churches celebrate Holy Communion every week on Sunday. And so should you.

Won’t weekly Communion become a rote ritual?

I’ve heard a few arguments against weekly communion, but the “rote ritual” argument is the primary one from evangelical churches.

For me, this is really a non-argument. All churches do a lot of things every Sunday, such as singing, praying, and preaching. Any of these things can become rote or seem mundane. Yet we find ways to stay connected. The same goes with Holy Communion.

(To learn more about Holy Communion, read this introductory guide.)

But aren’t we supposed to carefully examine our hearts?

A historic argument against weekly communion is the “people are too bad” argument. This was the reason why most lay people did not receive communion during the Middle Ages.

The lowly, sinful, tainted lay people were not so holy as the clergy, it was said. So they had to prepare for Eucharist every year during Lent, and then receive only on Easter Day. That way they wouldn’t risk the damnation that would come from receiving with an impure heart.

Ironically, this argument was coming from the Pope and the Roman Catholics, not the Protestant reformers. The Reformers were actually arguing for more frequent communion. Their internal debate was whether it should be weekly or monthly.

Today, many evangelicals make a similar argument against weekly communion. If people received every week, they might receive in that “unworthy manner” that St. Paul warns us about. So, the argument goes, we should not have communion too often, so that people will be careful to examine their hearts.

This way of thinking is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Holy Table of Jesus Christ. It is a table of grace.

This is not to say that we should approach it lightly or frivolously. No. But it is to say that the Holy Communion is the place where baptized believers come to taste and see that the Lord is good. Communion is for sinners, saved by grace.

When we were children, we were helped to wash our hands before each meal. We weren’t sent away because our hands were dirty. So our heavenly Father will wash us and feed us.

Won’t weekly Communion confuse seekers and get in the way of evangelism?

Another argument against weekly communion is evangelistic. It is said that non-believers or seekers won’t understand or have time to sit through a full Eucharist. They might be confused by it.

The early church used to dismiss seekers before the communion. They would allow outsiders to hear the word read and preached, and some of the prayers. But they dismissed everyone except baptized believers before the communion.

(Keep in mind that these seekers and catechumens were being offered small group classes that explained Christian beliefs and told them what the Eucharist was about. This was no secret society.)

In a way, we still do this today. We “fence the table,” which means we announce that the table is for baptized believers. We then are able to offer a blessing to all who will not be receiving. Adults take classes before baptism, and children who are baptized later take confirmation classes.

In practical terms, I’ve found the communion to be something that interests people. Eating and drinking are fundamental parts of human life. Observing people who are eating and drinking at God’s Table is beautiful to most people. Explaining what we are doing and why is a chance to share the gospel. Paul even said that we are proclaiming the Gospel every time we take the bread and cup (I Corinthians 11:26).

While the Holy Communion service might not be quite as simple as a prayer, praise, and preaching service, it doesn’t have to add hours of time. It may only add a few minutes overall. But, in terms of our witness, it adds an invitation to receive Christ himself.

What about the biblical record?

There are quite a few biblical reasons to hold weekly communion, where it is possible to do so.

First, Jesus rose again on Sunday, the first day of the week. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter. At the inn at Emmaus, the Risen Christ reveals himself to the disciples in the breaking of the bread. Of course, this was after he had shown them how the Christ was prophesied in the Scriptures. This same risen Christ reveals himself to us every Sunday in the breaking of bread.

When we receive the spiritual nourishment of the Eucharist, we are refreshed for the upcoming week. We gather on Sunday to see the good things God has done and is doing, and we are sent out into the world to love and serve him. The communion is our holy food and drink, a way of resting in God’s presence. Time stands still and we are fed.

Second, the earliest churches gathered on Sundays, and they “broke bread” when they did (Acts 20:7; I Corinthians 16:2). They believed that communion was a participation in Christ himself (I Corinthians 10:16) and so their worship included communion in order for people to be with Christ in that unique way.

Third, Jesus himself instituted the Lord’s Supper. He said to do this often (I Corinthians 11:25). I think we have it on the highest authority that the holy meal is to be a regular occurrence.

Let’s follow the example of Church history.

The Holy Communion has been held weekly on Sundays by most churches in most place from the earliest recorded history of the Church. It has followed the service of the Word, and the two services (Word and Sacrament), have been an integrated whole.

My personal experience

Weekly communion is the center of my spiritual life. I have experienced Christ there, been fed by him, and have gone away full. I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Does it become mundane? Yes. Mundane is good. Mundane means that Jesus has entered into the regular, normal, everyday human part of my life. But it is also profound. Jesus has made himself present to me in the breaking of the bread. I feel that I could not leave behind a weekly Eucharist. I feel like I would starve to death!

As a priest and pastor, I have observed and talked with a lot of people about their experience of weekly communion. Some have shared with me that they received communion as a child, but no one ever explained it to them. It was seen as a religious ritual with no meaning. But with the proper reverence and with Gospel-centered teaching about the Eucharist, their love of communion comes alive.

Often a church member will be visiting family or on vacation, and will attend a non-eucharistic church on a Sunday or two. And often they will tell me how strange it seemed to pray, sing, hear a sermon, and then… go home. Someone once told me it is like sitting down to dinner, saying grace, talking for a few minutes, and then standing up and walking away without ever eating.

Weekly Sunday communion is our holy meal. Taste and see that the Lord is good!


Want to learn more?

Check out the following posts:

This post originally appeared on September 19, 2017. Updated on September 5, 2018.

Greg is the founder of Anglican Pastor. He is an Anglican Priest of the Anglican Church in North America. He served in a non-denominational church before being called into the Anglican church in 2003. He has served as an Associate Pastor, Parish Administrator, and Rector. He currently serves as the Canon to the Ordinary for the Anglican Diocese of the South.

5 Comments

  1. Janis Johnson Justice September 19, 2017 at 9:00 am - Reply

    How true.

  2. The Garners September 19, 2017 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Having come to Anglicanism from a mainline once-a-month-communion denomination, we too, now find ourselves feeling starved spiritually when we miss church, or are out of town and visiting a church without communion. We really appreciate the clarity of the liturgy that reminds us of the mercy of our gracious Lord, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body, and our souls washed through His most precious blood, and that, amazingly, we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us. We find the graceful movements of the Priest in the consecration of the wine, the text of remembrance, and the fraction of the bread, beautiful and meaningful. As struggling sinners, we are, truly, reassured in these holy mysteries, that we are living members of the Body of Christ our Lord, and deeply thankful.

  3. trevor collins September 12, 2018 at 12:23 am - Reply

    Greg……….as a Catholic, we have Mass each day, and if in a ‘state of grace’, I receive the ‘Eucharist’ each morning!!!

  4. Robert September 12, 2018 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    Growing up Baptist, where communion was just a symbol about three times a year, I love receiving the Sacrament as an Anglican every week. I sustains me through the week and blesses me beyond anything of this world. Yet, I would be willing to see the Church limit communion to once a month because of the rude abuse and disrespect of the sacrament by heterodoxical (some are heretical) Charismatics who seem to think that anything goes at the alter rail including interfering with others personal time with the real presence of Christ.

  5. Michael September 13, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Fr. Greg – Glad to see that you agree that the Anglo-Catholics had it right all along ! 🙂 Great article by the way!

Join the discussion...