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Methodist History: Why Isn’t Communion Every Sunday?

 

In United Methodist churches, communion is an “open table,” bread and grape juice are offered to everyone in attendance. Communion services may be held weekly, monthly or as seldom as four times a year. Dale Patterson with the church's General Commission on Archives and History tells us why churches within our same denomination offer the sacrament on different schedules.

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(Locator: Madison, New Jersey)

Dale Patterson, General Commission on Archives and History: “We as Methodists don’t necessarily have communion every Sunday. We might in some churches. But in general we don’t. Why? That goes back to our roots. As Methodist clergy in the late 1700s, when the denomination first got started, a pastor who could administer communion and baptism, was on a circuit traveling around. They might be going to 12 different places. They may be going to 20 or 30 different churches on their circuit, which means they couldn’t be in church every Sunday. So what happened was, the pastor always gave communion when he got to a church. And he might get to that church once a month, maybe once every 2 months. We were used to that and then as our pastors went on shorter and shorter circuits to ultimately just serving just one or two or maybe three churches, that habit has just stayed with us. So our communion happens maybe once a month in some churches. In some places it’s maybe 3 or 4 times a year. And it’s just part of our history."

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Learn more about United Methodist sacraments and rituals, and the United Methodist understanding of communion.

This story was produced by United Methodist Communications in partnership with the General Commission on Archives and History. Contact is Fran Walsh at 615-742-5458.

This video was first posted on May 25, 2017.