An Anabaptist Communion Liturgy

by Bob Allaway

As I say in my contribution to 'Coming Home', "Shortly after being called to my present church, I was asked to have a midweek communion for the church in Holy Week. Since something special was expected, and the church had shared my vision in calling me, I gave them an Anabaptist Communion (based on Hubmaier's) with updated Pledge of Love. ... This made a deep impression on all present." As a result, I suggested introducing something similar in our special communion services such as New Year Covenant Communion, and welcoming in new members. What finally resulted were the three questions for self examination given here.

I should explain that we were originally a 'Strict Baptist' Church. Older members can still remember deacons questioning visitors at Communion before they would let them participate. This practice ceased decades ago, but we do still challenge all present to examine themselves (1 Cor 11:28) before participating. The questions help this.

These questions are now often used in regular communion services as well:

Leader: "Paul writes, [‘Examine yourself, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without recognizing the body, eat and drink judgement against themselves.’] Let us so examine ourselves.

Jesus said, [‘This is my body, given for you’.] Do you recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, gave his body and blood for you on the cross, and that you only have forgiveness and eternal life through that one sacrifice, received by faith?

Silent self-examination.

Leader: Paul writes, [‘We who are many are one body’ and, ‘There should be no division in the body, but all its parts should have equal concern for one another.’] Do you recognize that God calls you by his Spirit to be one Body with all who share that faith with you, to watch over and support one another in love?

Silent self-examination.

Leader: Paul writes, [‘We were all baptised by one Spirit into one body .. You are the body of Christ’] and Jesus said, [‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit.’] Do you recognize that God sends you into the world by his Spirit to be the Body of Christ in it, showing his love in word and deed, even to those who are your enemies, just as the Father sent his Son into the world to give his body and blood for you?

Silent self-examination."

At that time, the New Year covenant prayer was the Methodist one, introduced by one of our Elders. When the Baptist Union published a Covenant Communion service a few years back, I liked their prayer, and substituted it. Although they had it in preparation for communion, I made it a prayer over the cup in Communion, on the grounds that sharing in communion itself was a reaffirmation of our baptismal covenant. (In this, I was following the lead of our church meeting, which when I had suggested 'sharing the peace' before Communion, vetoed it on the grounds that sharing in Communion itself is 'sharing the peace'.) On the recommendation of our Elder, we later changed the "We come this day ..." form to "I come this day ..." to make it more personal. This has now spread to services welcoming in new members, and other occasions, as well.

A member: [And when he has given thanks, Jesus broke the bread (lifts and breaks loaf) and said, ‘This is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’]

All: [Is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.]

The loaf is passed round, each serving his or her neighbour.

A member (lifts cup): [Jesus said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, when-ever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’]

The individual cups are passed round and held onto.

All: [Creating and redeeming God, we give you thanks and praise for your covenant of grace made for our salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord. I come this day to covenant with you and my fellow disciples, with whom I share this cup, to watch over each other and to walk together before you in all your ways known and to be made known. Amen]

All drink together.