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“Servers often have tears in their eyes...to see the breadth of diversity within God’s kingdom.” United Methodist pastor the Rev. Stephen Bauman explains what World Communion Day means to his congregation.

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World Communion Sunday is celebrated by United Methodists and others all across the globe. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications

Communion unites Christians across divisions of language, culture, countries, and denominations.

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World Communion Sunday: A celebration of unity and service

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*
September 29, 2016

A licensed local pastor shares the sacrament of Holy Communion.

The sacrament of Holy Communion unites all Christians as the body of Christ. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

On the first Sunday in October, United Methodist congregations join many Christian churches across the globe in celebrating World Communion Sunday.

World Communion Sunday began as World-Wide Communion Sunday at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1933. The Rev. Hugh Thompson Kerr and his congregation sought to demonstrate the interconnectedness of Christian churches, regardless of denomination (see Presbyterian Mission Agency website for more information).

Rev. Kerr appropriately chose the sacrament of Holy Communion to symbolize this unity.

“The term Holy Communion invites us to focus…on the holiness of our communion with God and one another,” states This Holy Mystery, The United Methodist Church’s official statement on the sacrament.

In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, which included all of the predecessor denominations of The United Methodist Church, adopted World-Wide Communion Sunday. The global celebration occurs on the first Sunday in October.

Brochure for World Communion Sunday from 1956

Special offerings collected by The Methodist Church on World-Wide Communion Sunday in the 1950s were for the Fellowship of Suffering and Service. Image courtesy of Archives and History of The United Methodist Church.

In connection with the celebration of World-Wide Communion Sunday, the Methodist Church collected a special offering for the Fellowship of Suffering and Service. The Methodist Commission on Overseas Relief, the forerunner of today’s United Methodist Committee on Relief received half of the offering. The other half was divided between two agencies that ministered to military members: the Methodist Commission on Chaplains and the Methodist Commission on Camp Activity.

World Communion Sunday today

Today, The United Methodist Church celebrates World Communion Sunday with congregations all over the globe. Followers of Jesus Christ in large churches and small, on farms and in cities, in ornate buildings and under tents, gather to receive the bread and cup of Holy Communion.

Some will receive cubes of bread. Some will tear from a common loaf. Some will receive a wafer.

Some will drink from a common chalice. Some will dip a piece of bread into the cup. Some will have individual glasses.

Some will use wine; some juice. Some will offer both.

Pastors will lead a variety of liturgies, in many languages. Clergy will dress traditionally, formally, and casually.

Despite the differences in our denominations and traditions, we celebrate our unity in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

In The United Methodist Church, World Communion Sunday continues to be a special giving Sunday. The monies raised today help provide scholarships for racial and ethnic minority students in the US, and students worldwide.

“I celebrate World Communion Sunday” graphic

Come to church this Sunday prepared to celebrate World Communion Sunday, and to give to the special offering. Image courtesy of United Methodist Church Giving.

This Sunday

Come to church this World Communion Sunday prepared to participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion. As you receive the bread and cup, remember that you are part of the Church Universal, united in Christ across time and space.

Come also prepared to give generously to The United Methodist Church’s World Communion offering. Your gifts will assist those whom God has gifted to learn and to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.

Learn much more about the World Communion Sunday offering, and our other special giving Sundays at umcgiving.org.

*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.