Church: Communion


In Communion, we participate in the death and resurrection of our Lord, who shed his blood on the cross and rose from the dead so that our sinful nature might be put to death in his death and raised up to holiness and eternal life in his resurrection. When we celebrate Communion, we partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of and in communion with our Savior, proclaiming his death until he comes.

All people, including children with parental approval, who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God may participate in our Communion service.

1.      Who may lead Communion

This service should be conducted by the pastor or by ordained elders. However, a pastor, in consultation with other leaders in the congregation, may want to appoint other individuals in the church to lead Communion on an occasion when the elders cannot be present to do so.

2.      Ministry of the Word

A short passage of Scripture may be read. Suggested texts:

3.      Ministry of the Bread and the Cup

a.       The bread prepared for Communion should be of good quality. It may be unleavened or leavened. When it is practical, the bread may be specially baked for this purpose. It may be served whole, broken, or in small pieces.

Take a piece of the bread and say:

Jesus took bread and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

b.      The wine used for Communion should be a medium to high quality red wine. Non-alcoholic wine or grape juice should also be made available for minors and those who prefer not to drink alcohol. Communion trays should be labeled so that participants know which contain wine and which contain grape juice.

Take the cup and say:

Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

These words of institution are taken from Jesus’ words at the Last Supper as recorded in Luke.

c.       Congregational response (optional)

The leader says: “In this table we proclaim the mystery of our faith.” (In the biblical sense, a “mystery” is something that our natural senses cannot discover, but that the Father has revealed to us by the Holy Spirit through his Son Jesus Christ. Communion is just such mystery to us in that the bread and cup are our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

Congregational response, in unison: “We died with Christ, we rose with Christ, and when he comes we will share in his glory.” These words, taken from Colossians 3:1-4, proclaim a mystery, a spiritual reality not discernable through our five physical senses. It is in this mystery that we participate when we partake of the bread and the cup as the body and the blood of Christ.

d.      Prayer of thanksgiving and blessing

Example of a prayer:

Father, we thank you for this bread and cup, representing our spiritual participation in the body and blood of Christ. United with us in our humanity, he has, in undying love and grace, taken us into the life he shares with you and the Holy Spirit. Help us know and believe in the communion that we have with you and with one another. We pray all things through the intercession of the Son and the Spirit, giving honor to you, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

The prayer can be modified to include seasonal themes, as noted below.

e.       Distribution

We suggest that in most cases, everyone be served and then partake of the bread and the cup together as one Body. Distribute the bread and the cup to everyone present. Set aside a single piece of bread and a serving of wine for you to use with the words of institution.

f.           Participation

When all have been served, lift up your piece of bread. This optional act rehearses the “lifting up” of Jesus on the cross for the sake of all humanity (see John 12:32-33).

Say: The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven

All the participants then eat the bread.

Then lift your cup and say: The Blood of Christ, the Cup of Salvation

All the participants then drink the cup.

4.      Prayer of Thanksgiving

Example Prayer:

Father, in Jesus’ name we thank you for making us your own children in your Son Jesus Christ, for baptizing us in your Holy Spirit, and opening our eyes to the light of who you are and who you have made us to be in Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

A final song may be sung, followed by a final word of blessing.


5.      Annual Last Supper Commemoration

GCI congregations should offer Communion at least once during Holy Week, the week before Easter. For most congregations, this will be in addition to the quarterly, monthly or weekly observance of Communion. This Communion may be on the evening of Maundy Thursday, on another evening, or during the weekly worship service.

a.       The annual Last Supper commemoration should be well planned so that it is an uplifting time of spiritual reflection, fellowship, praise and worship. Joyous songs, music, stories, drama and scriptural presentations can be inspiring ways of illustrating the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

b.      Footwashing Ceremony: Jesus’ example in John 13:14-17, in which he performed an action that was relevant in his culture, illustrates that we are all servants of one another. A footwashing ceremony may be included in the Communion service during Holy Week. When a footwashing ceremony is included, participation in the ceremony is optional. It is normally done before anyone participates in the bread and cup.

If a footwashing service is included, pans and water should be made available. Participants generally bring their own towels, though it is good to have extra towels available. Hand sterilizers can be made available for the participants after the footwashing service.

Each person washes the feet of one other person and then has his or her feet washed by the same person. Men should wash a man’s feet and women should wash a woman’s feet, except that married couples may wash each other’s feet.

Sample Communion Prayers Based on the Celebrations of the Christian Year:

To help congregations think about the meaning of Communion in a seasonal context, we include sample prayers corresponding to some dates on the annual worship calendar. You may wish to consult a lectionary calendar for additional dates and their respective topics. These prayers may also be helpful for congregations that celebrate Communion less frequently by helping focus the Communion celebration on who Christ is for us and who the Father has made us to be in Christ. These are just samples – feel free to adapt them with phrases appropriate to your speaking style.

For the Season of Advent:

Father, we thank you for preparing the people of Israel to be the womb of the Incarnation. We thank you for this bread and cup, by which we spiritually participate in the life of your Son Jesus Christ, who has truly come in human flesh and blood as the Son of David and the heir of Abraham. Help us know and believe in the adoption as children that we have in him, and the hope that his coming brings to our world, as the Spirit gives us understanding. We pray all things in his name, forever giving honor to you, our Father, and to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For Christmas:

Father, we thank you for sending your Son to become one of us in our flesh and blood. Your Son, who was rich in his divinity, became poor in our humanity, so that we might become rich in you [2 Cor. 8:9]  He has united us to your life and baptized humanity in the Holy Spirit. Help us live in your adoption as your children. Thank you for the rebirth to new life that we have in Jesus. We pray all things in his name, giving honor to you, and your Son, and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

For Holy Week:

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, who died our death for us and destroyed sin and death. We partake of this bread and cup as our spiritual participation in his crucified flesh and blood, giving glory to him, for the power of his victory on the cross. Help us know and believe in the adoption as children that we have in him, and in the victory of his cross on our behalf, as the Spirit gives us understanding. We pray all things in his name, giving honor to you, Father, and your Son, and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

For Easter Sunday:

Father, we thank you for raising us up to eternal life in the resurrection of Jesus’ body. We thank you for the gift of this bread and cup, by which we spiritually participate in his death and resurrection. Help us to know and believe in the adoption as children and the glorified body of the resurrection that is ours in him as the Spirit gives us understanding. We pray all things in his name, giving honor to you, and your Son, and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

For Ascension Sunday (the Sunday before Pentecost):

Father, we thank you for lifting us up to your right hand, and seating us in heavenly realms with you in your Son Jesus Christ. We thank you for this bread and cup, our spiritual participation in our adoption into the heavenly communion of his life with you. Help us know and believe in the adoption as children that we have in him, and to know the place you have made for us in heaven, as the Spirit gives us understanding. We pray all things in his name, giving honor to you, and your Son, and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

For Pentecost Sunday:

Father, we thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit on all humanity through your Son Jesus Christ. We thank you for the gift of this bread and cup, our spiritual participation in the life of our Savior, knowing that you have not left us alone but that you and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ make your dwelling with us through the promised Comforter who gives us courage and leads us into all truth. We pray all things in Jesus’ name, giving honor to you, and your Son, and the Holy Spirit forever. Amen.

Example of a Benediction: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.

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