John Wesley said that his followers should celebrate Holy Communion as often as possible – ideally daily. The only time this was possible for me was when I was training for the Methodist ministry at the Queen’s Foundation in Birmingham, where there was a Communion service every day. Sorry, Mr Wesley, but I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity this presented. Having come from a tradition of monthly Communion services, I maybe thought that more frequent receiving would take away some of the ‘specialness’ of the sacrament. These days, however, I love services of Holy Communion, and I deeply value any opportunity to participate.
Why is this sacrament so special? For me, firstly, it’s because it’s a way to meet with the risen Jesus that is so hard to describe and yet so real. It’s a mystery, but we know that as we do what Jesus commanded us to do – namely, to share bread and wine to remember him – we experience his presence in a very particular way.
He is with us as the bread and wine become, for us, his body and blood. With the two who walked the road to Emmaus, we recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Furthermore, it’s a strong sign to us that we are being united with him as we eat and drink, and the symbols of his life become part of our life. For me, in a Communion service, we know that Jesus is with us as we know nowhere else.
The feeling of fellowship and unity that is present in a Communion service means a great deal to me, too. Jesus invites us all. Some years ago, I realised that Judas shared the Last Supper with Jesus, and Jesus knew full well what he was about to do. If there’s a welcome for Judas, there’s a welcome for us all! To me, the person who presides is no more important than anyone else who is present. We’re all equal, and we all depend on the grace of God, which flows for all of us.
I also profoundly value the feeling of strength that I receive from a service of Holy Communion. I know I’m weak, but the bread and the wine feed me and give me strength to carry on. As Christians, we are pilgrims, and we need food for our journey. Jesus was a genius to feed his disciples at the time they needed it most, and the same feeding and strengthening is available for us today, as we share bread and wine to remember him, so that we can go out to share him with others.
Finally, I love Holy Communion because it’s a celebration! It’s a feast of love, with food and drink – a sacrifice of praise to God for our salvation and for new life in Christ. Everyone loves a celebration, and Holy Communion is the church’s celebration of Jesus’ great love for the whole world. It’s the best party ever!
Written by Revd Jennie Hurd, SCM Friend and Chair of the Cymru Synod in the Methodist Church in Wales.