"This is a very important moment in the life of our church," said retired Bishop Joseph Pennel, now a professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tenn. "We need teaching around Holy Communion because this is one place people - month after month - can have the experience without knowing the meaning."
With so many expressions of United Methodism today, Pennel
asked, "Could it be that baptism and Holy Communion might be practiced in such a way that it will hold us together?We're at a time when we need to consider what to teach, how to teach and what to do."
Many United Methodist clergy need to improve how they preside at the communion table, Pennel
and other leaders said.
In a workshop titled "Presiding with Grace and Freedom," Benedict coached participants in leading Holy Communion smoothly, reminding them that their actions signify "receiving the richness of God."They discussed rhythm, tonality, continuity, flow, emotion, showing hospitality, gestures, formality and informality."If we're awkward and embarrassed, they will be awkward and embarrassed," he
Benedict said that even if styles of ministry are different, there should be unity in the practice of Holy Communion."It's when we trivialize it . . . when we are excessive about innovation and creativity, we're on thin ice," he
During the workshop, the Rev. Jim Doepken, pastor of Girdwood (Alaska) Chapel United Methodist Church, said Holy Communion in his
one-room church is informal, but he
uses the full liturgy."You can be liturgical but down home or laid back as well," he
United Methodists are interested in the sacraments, but are also confused by them, said the Rev. Gayle Felton, principal author of "This Holy Mystery."
"The purpose of this week is to try to help us move from confusion to clarity," she
said."We have a lot of the former and not a great deal of the latter."
The intent of "This Holy Mystery" is not to lay down an authoritarian formula, but to provide guidance and direction, she