Coming together in communion at the WCC Assembly
Written by Mary Stamp
November 12, 2013

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president, serves communion to the Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Disciples of Christ, at the WCC Assembly in Busan, South Korea.

In the United Church of Christ all are welcome at the table, so UCC church leaders participating at the World Council of Churches 10th Assembly found a way around being unable to celebrate communion together as a global gathering.

The Rev. Geoffrey Black, president and general minister of the UCC, said that being UCC, he is accustomed to an open table, with communion as part of wider church meetings. "It was strange to be at an event like this where so many Christians are gathered to share theologically and ecclesiologically, lending to communion but not doing it," he said.

Members of the Disciples of Christ also celebrate communion whenever they meet in wider church settings. So Black welcomed the Disciples' invitation to the Reformed family, joining participants in the Disciples of Christ and Reformed traditions gathered on Nov. 6 to celebrate communion around the altar of the WCC worship center in Busan, South Korea. 

The Rev. Robert Welsh, ecumenical officer for the Disciples, said, "Holy communion is a gift and a challenge as we experience the pain of our continued division to partake communion together as one family. For Disciples and Reformed churches, everyone is welcome at the table."

Reading from Corinthians 11:20, the Rev. Sharon Watkins, general minister and president of the Disciples, told of one Sunday discussing the sermon with her father and complaining. Her mother sat quietly and then said, "We do not go to church for the sermon. We go to church for communion."

"When we gather to celebrate the holy meal in this place, we are aware of the dance of ecumenical life, aware we are already one, yet experiencing the brokenness of the body," she said.

"Christ made us one, but Christ's body is broken again and again," she continued. "When we come to the table here at the World Council of Churches Assembly, we experience the brokenness most painfully. We experience the already now and the not yet of unity.

"The hope is not in what we do, but what God does in Christ Jesus. We dance together and separately," she said. "We meet here and see the face of Christ in the meal and then to go out to see the face of Christ in our neighbors' faces, especially those who are broken. I hope that when they see our faces, they will see the loving, reconciling Christ in us."

Black prayed, "Transform us God to be your bread and act on your behalf."

The Rev. Sarah Lund, western regional minister of the Florida Conference of the UCC, prayed that the "cup will fill us to share the cup with the world, so that all who are thirsty for justice and peace feel Christ's life flowing through us."

The Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches prayed that "our lives will be lives of gratitude as instruments of God's justice and peace."

Mary Stamp is the editor of the Pacific Northwest Conference UCC News and The Fig Tree, a regional ecumenical newspaper online at www.thefigtree.org.

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