Communion table

Communion table or Lord's table are terms used by many Protestant churches—particularly from Reformed, Baptist and low church Anglican and Methodist bodies—for the table used for preparation of Holy Communion (a sacrament also called the Eucharist). These churches typically prefer not to use the term "altar" because they do not see Communion as sacrificial in any way. However, in colloquial speech, the word "altar" is often used interchangeably with "communion table".[1]

Communion table in the Münster in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

TerminologyEdit

The use of a simple table, generally built of wood, instead of an altar made of stone reflects these churches' rejection of the suggestion of sacrifice in the rite: they believe that the Passion of Jesus Christ was a perfect sacrifice for sins made once for all (Hebrews 9:25-10:4).

Many Protestant churches that choose not to use the term "altar" may still have an "altar call", in which visitors wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward to the front of the church.[2][3][4]

Having or not having a Communion table was a subject of dispute within Scottish Presbyterianism in the 17th century, with the Independents opposing its use.[5]

While some Methodists use the term "altar",[6] the United Methodist Church states, "[s]trictly speaking, United Methodists do not have an altar", and advises that the traditional terms are "Lord's table" and "Communion table" for the table upon which the bread and wine are placed during Holy Communion.[7]

Location and adornmentEdit

 
This Presbyterian church in Duirinish, Skye has a small Communion table in front of a prominent pulpit, illustrating the church's dual ministry of Word and Sacrament.

The table may be very simple, adorned perhaps with only a linen cloth, or with an open Bible or some receptacle to collect an offering. In modern use many Protestants adorn their tables with candles, though the use of candles was historically rejected among some Protestants. Some Communion tables bear the inscription Do This in Remembrance of Me from the Last Supper (Luke 22:19, 1 Corinthians 11:24) or the words Holy, Holy, Holy as a recollection of the union between the whole of creation in worship.

Such a table may be temporary, being moved into place when there is a Communion Service, but generally holds a permanent (or semi-permanent) position of some prominence in the worship space. Instead of a high altar, the sanctuary may be dominated only by a large, centralized pulpit.[8]

Some bring in a Communion table only when needed.[9] For example, St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral in Sydney does not have a prominent Communion table.[10][11] The strongly Evangelical church leadership decided that the table should be placed in a more forward position in the chancel and that it should be easily portable so that it might be removed when not required for Holy Communion, to clear a space for presentations and musical performances.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Keene, Michael (2001). Christian churches. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7487-5288-1.
  2. ^ Cox, Harvey (2001). Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (1st ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-7867-3134-3.
  3. ^ Lawless, Elaine J. (1 January 2005). God's Peculiar People: Women's Voice and Folk Tradition in a Pentecostal Church. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8131-9141-6.
  4. ^ Bouma, Gary (15 March 2007). Australian Soul: Religion and Spirituality in the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-139-45938-9.
  5. ^ Begg, James (1998). "A Treatise on the Use of the Communion Table, in Celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  6. ^ Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) First United Methodist Church History and Records Committee (1968). The History of the First United Methodist Church of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 1830–1969. F. W. Orth Company. p. 115.
  7. ^ "Glossary: altar". United Methodist Communications. 21 October 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  8. ^ Huldrich Zwingli's minister church in Basel (PDF). All Saints Margaret Street, London. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  9. ^ "Trinity Baptist Church" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  10. ^ "The Mystery Worshipper: St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia". Ship of Fools. 2007. Archived from the original on 10 March 2018. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  11. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (21 December 2004). "How great thou aren't". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 15 January 2017.