Converts: What was Protestant Communion Really Like?


#1

It’s been a few years since I last received communion in the Methodist Church in which I was raised. While Protestant, I receive communion in the form of bread cubes, paper thin wafers, and large loaves that were passed from person to person who each broke off a piece to eat. The fact that crumbs (which according to you are the body of Christ) were falling all over the floor to be trampled underfoot didn’t seem to bother anyone at the time.

We received the grape juice in small glasses (I called them thimbles to reflect their small size - that was to avoid calling them “shot glasses”) that were distributed in circular metal trays that had lots of holes to hold each of these glasses and a metal top to cover it. The metal trays were stackable so that one person could carry many of the trays at one time.

After communion on these special Sundays, we kids would race back to the kitchen where we could down all the leftovers we wanted. So much for recognizing the Body and Blood of the Lord and receiving him in a worthy manner. The adults didn’t seem to mind this - they knew that there was no profanation going on - because Jesus is not really, truly and sacramentally present - body, blood, soul and divinity - in the Methodist communion.

Now, have I adequately described the circumstances that are all too common in small Protestant churches or not?

I hope other converts will express their own experiences, as well.

I am especially interested to hear from those who believed that they were actually receiving the Lord in the sacrament only to discover that this was not really true - until you became Catholic.


#2

Well, if you believed you were receiving the Body & Bllood of our Lord, you were in the wrong church.

It is not the belief of Methodists or any other protestant church that you receive the real person of our Lord…

I am a convert, and I have to say, it was for me like Coming Home.

I know what you mean about the bits of bread, and that is all it is.

Read John 6 & read it from the beginning.

Peace be with you.


#3

I’m not a convert, but let me presume to offer a counter example here. I spent 20 years in the Episcopal Church. If you have not participated in, or at least witnessed, an Episcopal or Anglican Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer it would be well worth your while…

The Priest begins with the Great Thanksgiving and Eucharist Prayer, followed by the Sanctus, Words of Institution and the Proclamation of the Mystery of the Faith (“Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again”), followed by the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) and the call and response of the Breaking of the Bread: “Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” “Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.”

The parish would then come forward to the alter, kneel, and receive the consecrated host, with the words “The Body (Blood) of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in everlasting life” to which we would respond “Amen.” Or, sometimes, with these words “The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]…The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]” Usually, in my parish, we would receive by intinction, although this was optional and some people would received the consecrated bread and wine separately. We would finish with prayer and the Priest’s benediction to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Often, during the communion, the choir or congregation would sing hymns, one of my favorites being “I am the Bread of Life.” (Although the music is irregular, it is difficult to find a more moving hymn, especially during communion*…“and I will raise him up on that last day.*…”)

This was in a “low” Episcopal Church in accordance with Rite I of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. I am sure that GKC, Mercygate and others can describe a more elaborate or “high” Anglican service.


#4

My experience in the Assemblies of God was quite similar to Randy’s and as an Episcopalian to that of rr1213.

As an Episcopalian I believed I was receiving Christ in Holy Communion (we never referred to it as the Eucharist at my parish but maybe it was different in other parishes). The communion service was very much like the Catholic, since the Anglican Church came directly from the Catholic Church instead of being removed 2 or 3 times like most Evangelical congregations.

In the AoG it was explained at every communion service that the words of Jesus were strictly metaphorical and that we were only receiving communion because Jesus commanded us to. Why he commanded us was a subject for debate, although not intense debate, only speculation. I always felt like something was missing, but I didn’t know what.

When I started attending Mass it was very much like the Episcopal services I remembered as a girl, so I felt at home right away, although I did not care for (nor still care for) going up for the Sacred Species in a line like waiting to pay for groceries or something. I would prefer kneeling in reverence to receive, but that’s another topic for another thread.


#5

I was raised Catholic, left the church and attended various Protestant churches.

communion is handled differently in different denoms, but all I have been blessed to participate in have been very respectful and meaningful.

I was moved most, and the experience of breaking bread and being the body of Christ most hit me when we would tear the bread off the loaf, and wait and then consume it together. Likewise with the cup, we consume it together.

I don’t like the standing in line, feeling rushed, assembly line style communion. Chewing one’s way down the aisle because we don’t want to hold up the line.

I think communion is an important part of Christian living, directly instituted by Christ, and it is worth the extra time and trouble to do it right.

Some theologies teach that the most important aspect is the receiving, that everyone get’s their little bit, but I don’t think it is that simple. I don’t think Christ instituted it as a meal, as breaking bread and sharing cup, without a sense of how important the experience of doing it together, taking time, was.

In recognizing the mystical singificance, unfortunately, some churches have minimized the other very important aspects. Jesus wasn’t worrying over crumbs and spills, he was worrying over nourishing very real people. He wanted people to know he is still here for them, meeting their most basic needs, serving as food and drink, as refreshment, calling them into community.

cheddar


#6

I have also experienced a range of practice, having gone steadily ‘higher’ from the presbyterian church, to Evangelical Anglican, to high Anglican.

The strangest experience I ever had was of a friend’s independent church, which was a small denomination that started in Asia, and which was mostly based around house groups. As a guest at their student house group, the person leading that week’s Bible study began with a short communion that involved us sitting on the floor in her flat, with a broken wheat cracker and a cup of diluted grape juice!

There’s also the Greenbelt communion service (a liberal Christian festival in England), which involves everybody sitting on the grass in groups, with one person in each group holding up a bread roll and plastic bottle of wine while the words of institution are said by the minister on the main stage. They do also have a Catholic mass on the Saturday evening though.

The important thing is that for all of these people, they genuinely did believe that they were following the purpose that Our Lord gave us when He instituted the sacrament. The symbolic value, and the value of faith in His words is not lost even though the belief in the real presence may be absent.

Even so, there is a different level of reverence, even in the most liberal Catholic mass, to even the highest Anglican service. The difference doesn’t come from the congregation and their attitude, nor even from the beauty of the liturgy. The difference is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.


#7

I could, up to and including Latin, incense and chanting, if I wasn’t running out the door. If there is an interest, I’ll try. But let me ask: were you using the 1979 book?

GKC


#8

And singing the Angelus, and the Regina Coeli, and having Benediction/Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and doing Stations, and lighting candles at the Mary Shrine…

GKC,

just passing through.


#9

Communion in the Protestant church was the best part of the service, IMO.

We only got to have it once a month (except in the Christian church), so it was special.

In the churches I attended, it was always extremely reverent. And it was ritualistic almost to the extreme. Usually the ushers would make sure that they were in step when they marched up the aisle with the elements. Often the lights were dimmed. The music was quiet and the Bible readings were read with great solemnity.

Usually we had several minutes in which we were expected to examine ourself and determine whether we were taking the elements worthily. In several churches that I was part of, we were told that if we had anything against someone else, we needed to make it right BEFORE we took Communion. And often, this happened–someone would get up from their seat, seek someone out, and they would go to the back of the church and “make things right.”

Communion took forever, usually at least twenty minutes to serve 300-500 people. Sometimes longer.

I think that’s one reason why a lot of churches started limiting the number of times per year that they offered Communion. It took so long and it was so ritualistic. Protestants have a phobia about rituals, and I’m sure that many questioned the use of the time to go through this ancient ritual. Why not play more music instead, or even better, just have more Bible preaching?

One of the most awful trends in Protestantism in the last ten years or so is to cut the number of times per year that Communion is offered. Many churches still do Communion once a month, but quite a few are doing Communion a few times a year. Some churches are just leaving the elements sit out and inviting people to help themselves as they feel led.

It’s terrible to be Protestant if you have to work Sundays. At one point, I hadn’t been able to participate in Communion for almost a year because of the way the work schedule and church schedule worked out.

One of the main reasons my husband and I became Catholic is that we KNEW that there was more to Communion than just a symbol. We didn’t know exactly what, but we knew SOMETHING was missing in our Protestant Communion.


#10

My experience was pretty similar to rr1213’s when I was Episcopalian. Actually, I think he pretty much summed it all up.

As an Anglican, it was pretty similar, except we either used the 1928 BCP, or the Anglican Service Book, which meant some of the prayers were a little different. But it was the same in the sense that we went up to kneel at the Communion rail (and no self-intinction was allowed). We were always instructed to never chew the Host, and we would never take the blood of Christ from the person distributing it (you had to just grab the bottom of it and guide it towards you…I hope someone else can explain that better than I just did!). This is different from what I’ve seen in the Catholic Church, where the person distributing the cup will hand it to the communicant.


#11

Nope. No bruising the Flesh.

For the Blood, the priest, with the interlocking safety grip on the chalice, approaches and says the words of Administration. The Communicant, kneeling at the rail, reaches up to the base of the chalice, gently, to steady it and guide it, slightly, to the mouth. It’s just a touch, I wouldn’t call it a grab. And you say "Amen, after the words of Administration.

That’s about average; I’ve seen it done sightly differently.

One point: in my parish, and in traditional Anglicanism, generally, no EEMS. No one touches the Consecrated Species, who is not vaidly ordained.

GKC


#12

In the Baptist church, communion is generally held either monthly or quarterly. Serving communion is done by the deacons and each person is served at his seat. The elements are unleavened bread, generally in chicklet size pieces, and grape juice in thimble size glasses. Both are served on silver trays. After the bread has been served, the pastor will usually say something like, “When He had given thanks for the bread, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’” Then the entire congregation eats the bread.

The deacons then serve the cup (grape juice) and the pastor usually says something like, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."
Then the whole congregation drinks their small container of grape juice.

It is always done in a prayerful and reverend atmosphere. When the communion service is over, the congregation sings a hymn as Jesus and the apostles did in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26.


#13

I am an ex-RC now Episcopalian and can relate to exactly what you said here. Communion for me every Sunday is a personal experience for me kneeling at the rail to receive the body and blood of our Lord Christ. It just feels much more like a personal experience receiving our Lord as the words of scripture run through my head and heart kneeling there looking at the risen Jesus on the crucifix who died so that I could live. It has significant meaning. Jesus is truly present in the RC but he most certainly is in my small Anglican parish as well. I have experienced him and I know him like I never have before.


#14

As has been pointed out over and over on this forum, this is not the case. While many Methodists do believe that the Eucharist is only symbolic, official United Methodist statements do indeed teach a form of Real Presence (one that fully meets the definition you gave above–receiving the real person of Christ). I will not vouch for British Methodists having a similar theology.

Of course, Lutherans and Anglicans have a stronger belief in the Real Presence–the Reformed churches are roughly in the same boat as the Methodists, though given the strong sacramentalist tendency of recent United Methodist theologians and liturgists I’d say Methodists are in better shape in this regard, in spite of the persistence of a purely symbolic view (deriving from 19th-century ecumenical revivalism and NOT from the Wesley brothers) on the local parish level.

Edwin


#15

The Book of Worship, United Methodist Church, says:
“What is done with the remaining bread and wine, should express our stewardship of God’s gifts and our respect for the holy purpose they have served”

Also we have:
"If any bread or wine remain, they should always be disposed of by (1) …in a reverant manner"
Sounds like you had a bad experience. It is fortunate I do not base my views of the Catholic mass on the numerous liturgical abuses posted on youtube, I would know better than to do that!!


#16

In what Protestant traditions is communion becoming less frequent? In the “mainline” churches the reverse is the case. Methodists, for instance, typically celebrated the Eucharist quarterly, but in recent decades monthly communion has become the norm, and weekly communion is not unheard of. Anglicans–even low-church Anglicans–usually celebrate it weekly, where at one time monthly or even less frequent communion was common. I believe that Presbyterians also generally celebrate more frequently.

I was under the impression that this was also the case in many evangelical churches, but I may be overly influenced by the fact that the evangelicals I’m in touch with these days (except for my students!) tend to be intellectual, high-church types. I would be saddened but not entirely surprised to learn that many evangelical churches are going in the opposite direction for the reasons you mention. However, the most recent trend among evangelicals is the “emerging church” which tends to favor frequent communion. So all is not lost!

Edwin


#17

I attend a Presbyterian Curch. When we had 3 ministers (we have 1 now and are looking for a second to call), communion was held every 3 months for the whole church but it would be served every Sunday in the chapel adjoining the main sanctuary for those who wished it. Hopefuly this will be the case again once we have a second minister.
I have attended Mass on a number of occasions, albeit always at my in-laws church. I find our communion much more reverent. While communion is being served the entire sanctuary is completely quiet, except for the very quiet playing of the organ. People pray and contemplate until the entire congregation eat and drink together. Even when communion is served by intinction the lines are very quiet and reverent.
The Masses I have attended, on the other hand, seem rather confused, people jostling in line, rushing to get up and back to their seat, even talking in line. I, of course, being Protestant did not partake but I was not impressed. If these people thought they were eating the real body and drinking the real blood, I would have expected a lot more reverence.


#18

At my university’s “inter-denominational” church UCF (University Christian Fellowship), we had communion once or twice a semester, if I remember correctly. They hold a symbolic view of communion. People filed out of their pews much like our Church does now, but there was one large loaf of bread. Each person would rip off a piece and eat it.

Quite honestly, I didn’t give it much thought. In retrospect, the intent was good, but it seems almost meaningless to me now. All these “ordinances” seem nonsensical compared to our Church’s rich Sacramental theology.

I’ve also been in Protestant churches where they hand out broken wafers of bread, and give out little cups of grape juice. Although I believe their intent is sincere, it’s hard to see anything sacred in these traditions.


#19

Randy, your experience sounds just like mine in the Baptist church. I remember at one point we had little Chiclet-shaped bread cubes. Our pews had hymnal holders on their backs with three “thimble holders” on each side for the grape juice.


#20

When I was AoG we had communion once a month & had the usual little cracker-like wafers & a little cup of grape juice that we took in unison w/each other after the pastor read the passage from the Last Supper.

At the non-denom Christian church I am attending (but will be starting RCIA soon) they have weekly communion. At first they would pass out the elements (or emblems, as they like to call it) and everyone would eat the bread & drink the cup as if they forgot to eat breakfast that morning. It was way too casual. I think there were a lot of complaints b/c they started taking communion in unison, which is much better. Then one of the elders would come up & read/quote the passage from the Last Supper then we would take communion. For some reason though, when the pastor says the passage instead of saying “This is my body…” he says “This represents my body…” which is very frustrating!:banghead:

Talk about adding to scripture:hmmm:


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