General Synod: Come for all now is ready

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.


  1. Kelvin, this is brilliant as always.
    When I preside at the eucharist, the statement I make (both at the beginning of the service and before the Eucharistic prayer) is that all who wish to dine at Christ’s table are encouraged to participate. After the Breaking of the Bread, I also declare (as in this liturgy at your General Synod) “Come, for all is ready.” I plan to start using the fuller statement from the GS (from this Sunday).

  2. Dianne Pallett says

    Kelvin, as ever, a thoughtful & inspiring piece.
    But I have to say it has left me feeling disturbed & ever so slightly irritated.
    I like very much that the table is open to all. I dislike very much that this was done at Synod where Mr & Mr Joe Public, amongst others, will be watching.
    Because, as you rightly say, this is not usual. So were they doing & saying this as a publicity stunt?
    I can’t help thinking that it was so.
    And if someone sees this, hears about this, and in need goes to their local church to find hands turned palm outwards saying, “Oh no, YOU are not welcome to be fed here, can you imagine the damage that might do?
    Sorry church, I’m tired of your publicity stunts, tired of your hypocrisy, tired of your endless chatter.
    Do as Jesus commanded, go out in the world & LOVE everyone. Stop your mindless petty discriminations. Then & only then can you return to your altar and welcome EVERYONE.

  3. Bro David says

    “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.”

    Yep, that’s me and that’s likely where I’ll be to the end.

  4. Dharma N. Cuthbert says

    I think this is a machine that the devil is in.
    I think that this is okay if all, as said above will take it on board. I have not yet been refused by anybody but I know that if I was that church and priest would never forget me.
    The first time I was at a service it was in a small chapel in Inverness Cathedral, and I was standing at the back of the congregation, Bishop Strange was presiding and at the Eucharist he motioned me forward. I didn’t go up as I had no idea of what to expect. Nor did I have a clue about the responses lastly I thought it might be blasphemous to do so.

    I feel that if you are going to make it open to all, then the church has to be clear about this, eg a leaflet explaing a bit about the service and a welcome. Obviously much better if there is a personal touch, ie the meet and greet thing. The thing was Mark did introduce himself afterwards as Mark no mention of being a Bishop. That’s one reason why I became an Episcopalian. That and his purple docs, they do say that the Lord moves in mysterious ways, non more than that for me so far.

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