Sunday, November 01, 2009
Still life: Setting the Open Table
In most United Church of Christ local churches, the Communion Table is "open to all Christians who wish to know the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God's people." (Book of Worship). Some visitors from churches which believe communion should only be celebrated among Christians who are in full doctrinal agreement might not choose to participate. Their decision should be respected.
More on Communion in the United Church of Christ.
I believe in an open table. It isn't the priest's, or the bishop's, or the Pope's, or even mine. It's God's. If the priest wanted to check and see if I was Roman Catholic at a funeral of a 20-yr old who died in an accidental drowning, creating a scene, that wasn't my problem.
Lisa was frightened, but let me go up anyway. The priest gave me communion and the roof of the church didn't collapse.
In Protestant Theology, a fenced table is a communion table which is open only to accredited members of the Christian community. Fencing the table is thus the opposite of open communion, where the invitation to the sacrament is extended to "all who love the Lord" and members of any denomination are welcome at their own discretion.
The phrase goes back to early Scottish Calvinism, where the communion table literally had a fence around it, with a gate at each end. The members of the congregation were allowed to pass the gate on showing their communion token, a specially minted coin which served as an admission ticket and was given only to those who were in good standing with the local congregation and could pass a test of the catechism.
Rercall that our long-lost bloggy blogger Pastor Tim, Christian Scientist turned conservative Presbyterian, is waaaay big on "fencing" the table.