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In a number of Denominations the First Sunday of October, which is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, is observed as "World Wide Communion Sunday" or "World Communion Sunday". I was first introduced to this service in 1973 when, as an adult, I began attending worship services on a regular basis. The minister explained that the day was a call for all Christians - of whatever background - and of whatever theological tradition - to recollect that we are in fact one in Christ - and that the table we receive from and communion at is God's table - not our own. I was captivated by the image of men, women, and children of every language, color, and nationality gathering in fields, straw huts, brick schools, wooden shacks and stone cathedrals and praising God and entering into both a physical and spiritual communion with one another as the planet turned under the gaze of the sun and the stars that God has placed over us all.
The National Council of Churches (USA) states that
World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) originated in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1936, for the first time, the first Sunday in October was celebrated in Presbyterian churches in the United States and overseas. From the beginning, it was planned so that other denominations could make use of it and, after a few years, the idea spread beyond the Presbyterian Church.
The Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) was first associated with World Wide Communion Sunday in 1940 when the department’s executive secretary, Jesse Bader, led in its extension to a number of churches throughout the world.
Today, efforts to promote World Communion Sunday are carried out by participating denominations, and several produce materials geared toward this observance.
The National Council of Churches lists a number of such resources on its World Communion Sunday 2003 page. Some of these resources remain on the Net, others do not. The Presbyterian Church (USA) also provided a full set of resources for World Communion Sunday 2002 that may be helpful. These latter resources (for Year A) include a full eucharistic prayer and were mailed out to all Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations in a Peacemaking Offering packet.
My personal approach to World Wide Communion Sunday is to use traditional prayers and litanies for different parts of the liturgy. This includes the use of the Apostle's Creed as the most ancient and most agreed upon faith statement of the Church and an adaptation of one of the oldest existing Eucharistic prayers - the Prayer of Hippolytus. Others may want to use more contemporary expressions that are specifically written to address the celebration.
In recent years, with the advent of the Internet it has become possible to collect greetings from other churches from around the world and to share some of these with the congregation during worship. Greetings from the faithful in countries where there are special problems or celebrations can be especially effective. If you are connected to one of the major Preaching Lists like PRCL (see our RCL List Servers page) there are normally a number of these greetings made during the week before World Wide Communion Sunday. Additionally there is usually someone who creates digest of such greetings and posts the digest by late in the week.
Kathy Donley of First United Church in Bloomington, IN. says that "every other year I have celebrated World Communion Sunday with a true sense of celebration about the world community of faith and the hope that one day we will have transcended all the boundaries that divide us and be one body. This year, the sanctuary will look like last year. There will be artifacts and clothing from around the world. I'm also thinking about involving the congregation in praying for the world in some very specific ways. I may divide the congregation into sections, one for each continent, and provide them the words to pray for countries and needs in each place. What I have in mind is a corporate prayer (not breaking up into groups to pray separately), but with each group assigned specific parts of that prayer." (2004)
Greta Jenson, Interim Pastor of Tolt Congregational UCC in Carnation, WA., writes: "I have a huge map of the world (National Geographic has a good one) on a table near the communion table (usually an extension of it) and I ask the kids if they know what countries their ancestors were from. I have votive candles which we light and then place the candle on that country. After everyone has had their say, I ask them to call out the names of any countries they know and we put a candle on them as well. I then talk about how Christians everywhere are celebrating communion on this day. If there are notes up around the sanctuary from other places, we talk about them too. Then I pray a wrap up prayer about all the countries whose names I can remember and something about situations going on around the world. The candles remain lit throughout worship as a reminder that the light of Christ is everywhere."
Another correspondent writes: "One idea we do in our church is to have a parade of nations using the flags of members' origin countries with the christian flag, for part of a processional. When flag bearers wear the native dress of the countries they represent, it becomes more beautiful.
The following are three of the services we have offered on the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Check our Year A, B and C Sermon pages under Ordinary 27 for other choices. Those that have specific World Wide Communion resources in them are so noted.
Further information on this ministry and the history of "Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources" can be found at our Site FAQ. This site is now associated with christianglobe.com