I’ve commented before that you can tell almost all you need to know about a Christian community by the way that they invite people to communion.
Yesterday, General Synod started to meet in Edinburgh and by some distance the most significant theological statement came, not in the debates about how we will talk about same-sex couples and marriage, not in the considerable theological reports that we had but in a tiny little exchange used in the liturgy.
Come all people: this is Christ’s table to which all are invited.
Come, for all is ready.
Thanks be to God.
Now, the reason this is significant is that this isn’t what we usually say in church. This isn’t what is part of the regular liturgy. So far as I could tell, it was used yesterday at the Synod Eucharist simply by the sanction of the nodding of seven bemitred heads gathered around the altar.
It was a joy to me to find such a thing said. I’ve believed this way for quite some time.
In St Mary’s we say, ‘everyone is welcome to Communion in this church’. Occasionally I get people asking whether we really mean it and I always say ‘You bet we do!’
Now the thing is, it is uncommon. Some churches make theological demands – all those who are trinitarian Christians are welcome to receive the bread and wine. For others, one sacrament acts as both a barrier and a key to another – all those who have been baptised are welcome to receive communion. Still others make Church membership the key. And for others still it is good behaviour, for example, the terrifying – all who are in good standing with their church are welcome…
Yesterday at our set piece Eucharist when we are all on show and amongst ecumenical and interfaith friends, we said that it was for all people. It was hugely significant and hugely welcome.
But the thing is, liturgy changes us. That’s part of the idea.
If we say things like this then it will change what we do.
The church is currently debating whether to change what we do with regards to marriage. Is it open to straight couples or in fact something that is open to any couple? Are gay people fully accepted as God’s children, whose relationships God will bless or not?
We’ve got to the stage of discussing that seriously at last. This isn’t my conversation any more. It felt like that for years. Now it is the church’s conversation.
If we start to behave in the Eucharist as though the gifts of God are for everyone then there must be rising hope that we will apply the same to all our sacramental thinking.
The debate is happening. Real change is possible. It started most particularly in that little exchange at the mass.
Come all people. Yes, come all people.
That’s the kind of church I want to belong to.
Thanks be to God.