Protestant churches have distinct traditions and customs, but all believe that Jesus Christ commanded the church to baptize and to receive communion. Communion, also referred to as the Eucharist and the Lord's Supper, consists of bread and wine or juice. Protestants do not agree on the frequency that communion should be served and the Bible does not specify how often believers should receive it. There are a variety of practices among Protestants for the frequency of communion.
Significance of Communion
Protestants believe that communion is related to Jesus Christ's sacrifice of his body and blood on the cross, but they differ on how the elements for communion are understood. The Lutherans believe that Christ's blood and body are present "in, with and under" the bread and wine. Presbyterians and Reformed churches teach that Christ is not present literally, but he is spiritually present in the two elements. Other Protestants, including Baptists, reject the idea of any presence and consider communion a remembrance of Christ's sacrifice.
Weekly or Monthly Observance
Some Protestant churches serve communion each week during the Sunday service. The supporters of weekly communion point to the first churches described in the book of Acts, in which the believers gathered on the Lord's Day to "break bread," the phrase describing the Lord's Supper or communion. Some Protestant churches schedule communion once a month; for example, on the first Sunday of the month. These congregations believe that, absent a clear directive from the Scriptures about the frequency of communion, the church itself can determine the frequency.
Less Frequent Observance
Some Protestant churches make a link between the Old Testament practice of Passover and communion. Because Passover was celebrated once a year, these churches advocate serving communion just once annually. Other churches that celebrate communion less frequently do so because it is logistically inconvenient to observe it often. For example, the church must regularly purchase the bread and wine, while also extending the length of the worship service. Some churches prefer not to make unbelievers feel unwelcome by serving communion frequently and excluding them from participation.
No Observance Rare
Some Protestants that follow the teachings of Ulrich Zwingli do not observe communion. Zwingli, a 16th-century church reformer in Switzerland, denied that baptism and communion were sacraments and did not believe that communion offered the sustaining grace of Christ because it was a mere memorial. Despite his stance on communion, Zwingli did advocate observing communion because he considered it important; accordingly, some Zwingli-influenced denominations do observe communion.
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