Growing up in the Wesleyan Church, I've not had tremendously moving experiences with the celebration of communion.  In the Wesleyan Church–as in many others–communion is served (by Discipline requirements) once a quarter.  The logic of this, I suppose, is to avoid the celebration of communion becoming a dead, lifeless ritual that is performed every week simply because "that is what we do" (makes you wonder about worship music and preaching, if routinization is the criterion for "lifeless ritual"…).  My experience has been pretty standard: the pastor rises, speaks a few words (perhaps from the Discipline) concerning the supper, and then ushers distribute the elements to the parishoners.  Generally, this happens at the immediate end of the service, and the rush is on to get the elements to everyone, imbibe them, and get everyone on the road.

While I have grown accustomed to this "routine" (funny how that happens anyway…), I have not been seriously impacted by the actual ritual on very many occasions.  In my own critique, I think the lack of impact stems mainly from the fact that the practice of communion–though done in a corporate setting–is mostly structured to be an individual response to God's grace in Christ.  I have heard all my life that I am to examine "my own" heart before partaking, that I should make sure that there is nothing in "my own" heart that is kept from God, etc.  And because the focus is often on the individual, so too is the pace of the ritual based on the individual: once you are finished eating and drinking, communion–for all intents and purposes–is over.  

This weekend, however, I experienced and participated within a deeply moving practice of communion.  

After a more than two-year hiatus, my wife and I have returned to Stonewall Wesleyan Church where we originally attended when we first moved to the Bluegrass area.  Our pastor spoke of the necessity of what he called a "tri-polar spirituality," a life of devotion and practice that has not only self and God as the focus, but also those who God loves and whom God has called each of us to love.  

What was amazing to me about this was that the pastor spoke for only about 15 minutes.  Upon conclusion, he invited us to partake of communion, but this time, with a twist.  Rather than each of us filing to the front to receive the elements, or waiting in our seats to be served, the elements were themselves passed between members of the church, each being served and serving others the means and instritutions of grace given by Christ.  

Now to those used to more "exotic" forms of Eucharistic practice, this might seem anti-climactic.  However, for me, it was revolutionary.

First, I was deeply moved by the amount of time that was devoted to the practice.  Although our church is not big, it takes a significant amount of time to pass a loaf of bread and chalice between 50+ people.  The entire ritual lasted at least 12 minutes, a marathon compared to what I am used to.  What struck me about this was the incredible lack of hurry.  Here, in this deliberate devotion of time, communion was not an afterthought, nor something that we just "do".  Rather, sacred space was created wherein God's Spirit could be manifest in the midst of God's people as they shared the body and blood of Christ amongst themselves in a holy act of worship.  
Secondly, it was intensely powerful for me to be served and to serve in the same act of ritual.  Again, I am used to assembly-line communion, so the extreme community-orientation of this practice was quite extraordinary.  What I discovered in this practice is that rather than the ritual focusing exclusively on myself and God, my neighbor–quite literally the person sitting next to me–was inextricably engaged in this act of worship.  Although used as somewhat of a misnomer at times, the practice really did feel like "communion" as all were focused on the primacy of the celebration of Christ' sacrifice, rather than upon the idiosyncrecies of each individual psychology.  

In previous posts, I have written at length about my experiences in the course I took on the celebration of the sacraments in Christian history, as well as what I thought were the main theological implications these considerations had for modern expressions of the same.  To now, much of his was incurably academic.  However, I have to say that my experience on Sunday closely imaged some of the deepest, inexpressable convictions that I hold concerning the sacraments, and I feel myself renewed within because of the manifestation of God's spirit within the ritual.  I am reaffirmed in my belief that the sacraments are no mere psychologizing about the presence of God in the midst of God's people; rather, when we participate within these holy institutions as the people-of-God-in-communion, the sacraments do indeed become the presence of Christ in our hearts and lives, the powerful means of grace by which we are sustained.