Canadian Mennonite
Volume 8, Number 12
June 14, 2004

The Lord's Supper

How do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in our churches? What theological convictions lie behind our practices? This issue focuses on these questions in a larger-than-usual feature section (pages 4-14).

To set the stage, John Rempel traces the theological roots and development of Anabaptist-Mennonite communion practices (page 6). As a pastor and scholar, Rempel has a passion for this topic and has written extensively on it. Some of his historical work is collected in his 1993 book, The Lord’s Supper in Anabaptism: A Study in the Christology of Balthasar Hubmaier, Pilgram Marpeck, and Dirk Philips (Herald Press). Rempel also wrote the section on the Lord’s Supper in the current Minister’s Manual (Faith & Life/Herald Press, 1998).

“The Lord’s Supper is our most profound and formative symbol,” says Rempel. “How we practice it reveals more of what we believe about grace, the church, and mission than any other aspect of congregational life; it is our theology incarnate.”

If that is true, are we giving enough thought to how we observe communion? Are we aware of how our practices express our faith? Questions about whom to invite to the Lord’s table, how to include children and how to serve the elements are not easy to answer—they depend on what we believe about the nature of the church and our life together.

The other articles in this section survey the variety of ways in which our churches currently observe communion (beginning on page 4). Many still follow traditional patterns, while others are including new ways of observing the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps these articles can help churches think about how their communion practices reflect what they believe about the community of faith.

The next issue of Canadian Mennonite will focus on mental health issues in the context of the church. The feature will include an article from last fall’s Canadian Mennonite Health Assembly in Winnipeg. A panel at that assembly talked about ways that congregations and individuals can respond to Jesus’ call to “heal the sick.”

A mother’s death

I am writing this just hours after the death of my mother in-law. She was 86 years old and had been ailing for several years before a massive stroke rendered her immobile just over two weeks ago. I was able to spend a week at her bedside in Manitoba before she died (time I had expected to spend in Europe on vacation).

It was a week out of time—strange and disorienting, but full of unexpected richness. My husband’s family was fortunate—all five siblings were able to keep watch together, while getting reacquainted with each other.

As many have observed, our culture does not easily incorporate the fact of death into our daily living. It’s often a struggle to set aside one’s own routines, both physical and psychological, to attend to a person’s dying.

The questions that one faces are suddenly so ultimate—how can we judge what “quality of life” is present, or when to remove the intravenous lifeline? How can we plan for a funeral when we have no idea when death will come?

It’s a stark lesson in realizing the limits of our control. All we can do is acknowledge that the days of our life and the moment of our death rest in the hands of God.

Mary (Zacharias) Reimer, rest in peace.—Margaret Loewen Reimer

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