Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is Christ’s gift to the church. On the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and shared it with his disciples. “This is my body that is for you,” he said. “Do this in remembrance of me.” He also took a cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.”
Following Jesus’ example and instruction, when the church celebrates the Lord’s Supper we receive gifts of bread and wine; we give thanks to God; we break the bread and pour the wine; we share the food and drink with each other. In these simple actions believers experience a profound mystery: Christ himself is present and his life passes into us and is made ours. As baptism is the sign and seal of our ingrafting into Christ, so the Lord’s Supper is a means by which Christ continually nourishes, strengthens and comforts us.
Through our prayers and the sharing of bread and wine we are joined to Christ and through Christ to each other. At the table we remember what God has done for us. The past event of our Lord’s death, resurrection and ascension comes into the present so that its power once again touches us, changes us, and heals us. We gather at the table with joy. Our eating and drinking is a celebration of our risen Lord. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is present with us at the table and so we give joyful thanks for what God has done and is doing in our lives and in the world. We come to the table in hope. We look forward with joyful anticipation to the coming reign of God when “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10).
Within the RCA, there is great diversity in the practice of communion. Some churches serve communion once a month, some do more or less frequently. The practice of the early church and the teaching of the Reformers of the 16th century was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly. The Book of Church Order calls for communion to be celebrated at least once every three months, if possible. Some churches use a common cup for the wine or juice, and some use individual cups. Some churches practice intinction (dipping the bread in the wine), and some serve the elements separately. Sometimes people are served in the pew. At other times they may be invited to come forward to the table. These practical decisions are largely left to the leaders of the congregation.
Christ is the host and invites us to his table. All who have been baptized into Christ are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper, although local boards of elders have been given the responsibility to decide at what age and under what circumstances young children may be served.