Holy Communion is a Christian ritual practiced since ancient times. From the earliest days of the Christian church through its many modern iterations, it remains a central rite. United Methodists celebrate Communion on a regular basis in their churches. For the Methodist religion, Holy Communion takes on a significance that reflects the church's history and the experience of modern Methodist believers.
Communion as a Sacrament
Methodists, like other Protestants, view Holy Communion as a sacrament. It is a sacred act of worship ordained by Christ and a means by which God dispenses grace to believers. Like other sacraments, Holy Communion is a mystery. Methodists reject the view held by the Catholic Church that the bread and wine are literally changed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Instead, Methodists view Communion as a way to remember Christ's sacrifice and experience God's presence.
Communion as a Community Event
Holy Communion is an act between God and a human being, but it's also an act between human beings. A local pastor, itinerant minister or other ordained clergy usually serves communion, but other members of the congregation assist with the distribution of the bread and wine. Methodists see Holy Communion as an act of fellowship like the fellowship Jesus and His disciples enjoyed during the Last Supper.
Open Communion for Christians of All Denominations
United Methodist Churches practice "open" Communion. Open Communion means that it is up to the individual whether to receive the sacrament. You don't have to be a member of the United Methodist Church to receive Communion nor do you have to make any proclamation of faith publicly. Communion isn't required, either. If you attend a United Methodist Communion service, you can choose to pass the bread and cup along without anyone questioning you.
Varying Frequency and Styles of Holy Communion
Methodism is inclusive and diverse, and its celebrations of Holy Communion reflect this. One Methodist church might celebrate communion weekly, another only quarterly. A contemporary-minded Methodist church might include alternate forms of worship, dancing and lively music during a communion service. Another Methodist church across town might celebrate communion with candlelight, organ music and simple scripture readings. The United Methodist Church recognizes the freedom of local congregations to celebrate Holy Communion in whatever manner they desire.
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