Saturday, June 02, 2007

Wedding & Eucharist?

We wanted communion at our wedding in 1975. Martha's father, an ordained Presbyterian pastor and Executive Presbyter of Hanover County Virginia did the proper thing; he asked the presiding pastor of his church. The answer came back "No." We could not have communion at our wedding at Camp Hanover ( a Presbyterian Camp) UNLESS a printed notice was put in the bulletin inviting all members of my wife's home church to both the wedding and holy communion. I thought that was way too strict until I went to seminary and studied sacramental theology. The late Dr. John Brown was right. In the Protestant tradition, the sacrament of holy communion (at least most mainline traditions, not Missouri and Wisconsin Synod Lutherans) is an open invitation to all who know Christ to come.
Over my pastoral years in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota, we occasionally had communion at weddings. But under the same basic guidelines, without opening wedding invitations to the whole church. All present in the worship service of the wedding were invited to participate. Sometimes they came forward. Sometimes the bride and groom served the weding guests. Sometimes church deacons enterd the service and distributd the bread and cup.
Recently I have both seen and how been requested to provide private communion to the wedding couple just after their vows. It is amazingly common. When I objected, a bride was quite upset that I would deny them this special practice. When she pushed, her argument was that the wedding really was about them, the couple, not the guests. Really? Is communion a private sacrament for special guests and not the whole body? I decided to stick to this principle of open communion for weddings. Is this a growing trend among other churches and communities? Is my sacramental understanding too narrow and restrictive? We do serve communion to the sick and shut-ins privately. But I have always brought enough along to invite all in the room to the table. I'd love your thoughts.


At 12:52 AM , Blogger Brad Boydston said...

I've had the same experiences and have noticed an increasing number of weddings where the couple will ask for private communion. It's become trendy to have this intimate experience. But I have refused and will continue to refuse to do it. I have too high a view of the sacraments and don't want to reduce what is meant for the whole people of God to an private intimate experience or even in some cases a rabbit's foot experience which is seen as adding luck to the couple's chances of succeeding in marriage.

I just tell them that our view of the sacraments doesn't allow for individualized communion. It's a good teaching opportunity.

At 6:16 AM , Blogger kent said...

Worship, and communion is included, in not about us, it is not an added on experience for the wedding to make the whole thing even "more special." Consumeristic mentality would make communiuon just an another option for the couple.

At 5:53 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Fisrt, I agree with your understanding that communion is about the whole body. Serving communion to shut-ins and the sick is not private communion, it is extending the purpose of communion to those among us who cannot be among us.

Second, the wedding and the marriage IS NOT really about the couple- it is about the community that that couple is a member of. The wedding is a "civil" act that brings the relationship of the newly married couple into the public square making them accountable to the community to love each other.

If you get the chance, read the chapter on Love in "On Thinking the Human."

At 6:30 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Dan; What is the book in which this chapter sits?

At 10:36 AM , Blogger Dan said...

"On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions" by Robert W. Jenson published by Eerdmans.

At 9:49 PM , Blogger Isaac Johnson said...

I think you aught to offer private communions, but with that door open, also offer plenary indulgences - to cover any premarital (and perhaps postmarital) affairs and wrongdoings. In fact, for an extra fee, appoint them positions in the church.

There are at least 93 other good ideas you could probably come up with.

At 4:52 PM , Blogger Dan said...

Yes.... I like your idea Isaac!

Hmmmm... let's see, i could create a list of options for the ceremony, kind of like the custom features on a car or if you go to Dell and order a custom built 'puter. Yes, yes... I'll set up a web page with several pre-priced wedding ceremonies with various features included in the base price. Yes, Yes, YES... and then put a little customize button under each feature ceremony so the couple can go on to add other custom features... Yes, YES, YES... I can even include a compare feature so the couple can see the features of several ceremonies side by side for easy comparison, thus making the marriage ceremony selection process much more consumer friendly- opppsss... I mean couple-in-love friendly.

Of course each feature is priced appropriately and details of how many minutes each custom feature will add to the ceromony...

Hmmmm... I'll have to think on this I think you've got something here, Isaac.


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