Communion (otherwise known as the Lord’s supper or the Eucharist) is one of the two sacraments of the Protestant Christian Church (the other being Baptism). In virtually all Christian churches, some version of communion happens. How, when, and how frequently it occurs varies widely from tradition to tradition and culture to culture.
One of the key hallmarks of communion in MCC is the “Open Table.” Since the very first service of MCC, when Rev. Troy Perry welcomed people from various traditions into his living room, MCC has celebrated communion and opened it to all. This is a major departure from traditions that only allow certain people to participate in communion – i.e. official members of the church, adults, baptized or confirmed people, those who confess a certain creed or call themselves Christian, those who believe a particular thing, those otherwise deemed worthy by the institutional leadership, etc. In particular, many LGBTQ+ have been denied access to the sacrament of communion in some churches based on the erroneous idea that because of who they are or whom they love, they are “sinners” unworthy of being included. In MCC, EVERYONE is welcome at the table. You will often hear something like this as a welcome to the table:
In Metropolitan Community Churches around the world,
we celebrate an Open Communion.
This means you do not need to be a member
of this or any church to participate.
No matter who you are, whom you love,
what you have done, or what you believe;
you (and all of who you are) are welcome at this table.
Because this open table welcome is such a transformational experience for those who have been excluded, communion is usually celebrated every week during worship. Rev. Perry used to say that he never wanted someone to come to an MCC worship service and NOT be welcomed to the table. It is who we are and a cornerstone of our faith. Our story begins, as our statement of faith says, when God says to us, “Come, taste, and see.”
The most important thing for MCC is that everyone has the option to participate in communion.
What, exactly, happens during communion is a question that has been a subject of great debate in Christian history for the last two-thousand years, inciting wars and divisions of various denominations. Some people believe that the bread/juice are transformed into the body of Christ in some way. Others understand the sharing of bread and cup to be simply a symbolic remembrance of the meal that Jesus shared with his friends and followers. Others care little about that, and focus their attention on what it means for us today to come around a common table to share food and fellowship with one another. In MCC, we have people with all or none of these beliefs who still manage to come together in unity around this central Christian ritual.
The actual elements used in communion (i.e. the “bread” and “wine”) also vary. It is customary in many congregations to use non-fermented juice only, out of respect for those in recovery from substance abuse. In various cultures, different types of bread are common (i.e. wafers, bread baked by those in the congregation, challah, tortillas, etc.). Usually, the bread most common for the people of a region are included. There may also be options for those who are allergic to gluten or other elements. The types of juice may also vary according to the drinks that would be commonly shared in a given area. What is most important is that these things are shared together, and that they are accessible to everyone.
The way in which communion is celebrated also varies widely from congregation to congregation and culture to culture (globally). It is often the case that people are invited to come forward to receive communion alone, with their partner/spouse, or with family members and friends. One frequent observation made by those new to MCC is how moving it is to see same-gender partners holding hands or showing signs of public affection in the sanctuary during one of the most central rituals of Christian tradition. This represents, for many, MCC’s core value of honoring sexuality and spirituality together. It is also fairly common for individuals, couples, or other groups of families/friends to receive a personal prayer of blessing from someone who is serving as a communion leader (clergy person or layperson). If people are invited to come forward, there is almost always an option for the leaders to bring communion to those who are unable to come forward for reasons of ability (or something else). The most important thing for MCC is that everyone has the option to participate in communion. If someone does not wish to participate in communion, that is fine; that should in no way exclude them from worshipping in other ways. It’s also often the case that music is played softly, or that congregational singing happens during communion while others are receiving the elements or being blessed.
Whatever you feel/believe about communion, know that there will be others who feel/believe essentially the same thing as you, and most certainly those who do not. Also, know for certain that you will be welcome as you are with no expectation that you feel/believe/participate as anyone else. This central sacrament for us is ultimately about a connection with one another and the Divine that transcends our ability to understand. This is the time when we are, in whatever ways we understand it, the mystical Body of Christ.