by Joel Wiberg, Becketwood Member and Presiding Minister, Early Morning Easter Worship
This year’s community Easter worship will be a service with both Word and Sacrament. Let me explain briefly.
The Christian community in all parts of the world has a wide variety of worship practices. We can see this variety as a spectrum from the quiet, elegant, simple and contemplative gatherings of Quaker Meetings at one end to the elaborate, lengthy and ancient rites of the Eastern Orthodox churches at the other. In between are many Christian communities each with distinctive and historic traditions that have emerged.
For most denominations—but not all—the central and core worship is a service of Word and Holy Communion or Eucharist (taken from the Greek word for Thanksgiving). From the very beginning, followers of Jesus gathered to hear and share God’s Word and also to share bread and wine together following his words to his disciples at the last supper “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Fast forward over the centuries. That tiny early church has become a great number of churches with a variety of doctrines and practices. Yet at the same time each of these faith communities affirm and agree that Christ is the “Church’s One Foundation”—to cite a beloved hymn. We can say that Christ’s worldwide community has its unity in Christ and also a diversity of expressions.
As the Christian movement spread it also splintered. Sadly the divisions at times even became violent. Over the centuries there was more than disputes over doctrine. Even full- scale wars were launched in defense of one expression or the other. Still today firm and clear lines are drawn between the many denominations. Fortunately, there has been progress in overcoming our divisions through dialogue and understanding each other better. The current ecumenical movement guides and encourages Christians to become more aware and accepting of each other by recognizing and respecting their differences, including special times of worshipping together. Imagine that for change and progress.
One very unfortunate result of past quarrels is that some denominations have a policy of restricting the Lord’s Table to their own members, denying the Eucharist to nonmembers and also to those who they judge unfit if they are divorced or identify as LGBTQ. Some will say that I see this too simply, but I simply accept and embrace Jesus’s first Eucharist, where he included all at the table, including some who would lie and deny knowing him and one who would betray him, leading to his arrest and crucifixion. No restrictions, no exemptions.
Today it must also be said that many denominations welcome other Christians to share the Eucharist. It can also be said that there is a growing awareness that by worshipping together, including sharing the invitation of Christ to his table, Christians in turn recognize our growing need to act as one people in Christ.
The early morning Easter worship will be Word and Sacrament. All are welcome—without exception. Each also may follow her or his own conscience whether they participate in the Holy Communion portion or not.
PS: Since preparing this article I am very pleased to inform the community that the Easter Eucharist will have two officiants. I invited Jim Fitzpatrick to join me at the altar as a co-celebrant, and he gladly accepted. This will be a truly Ecumenical Eucharist with everyone welcome.
PPS: Due to some food restrictions that some people have the bread will be gluten free and the wine alcohol free. Participants will be served by intinction, which is receiving the bread/wafer and dipping it into the chalice.
Do this in remembrance of me.