Letter to Pastor Wittwer of Life Center Foursquare Church
On the topic of Communion
18 January 2008
Dear Pastor Wittwer,
My family and I visited Life Center the week before last (10 Feb) as part of a project we’re doing. My husband and I were raised in evangelical Presbyterian homes and became Episcopalians as adults. We realized that we’d inadvertently raised a “cradle-Episcopalian”, and decided that we wanted to introduce our daughter to the wider body of Christ before she decides to be confirmed in the Episcopal church. As part of the project, and because the different churches we’ve visited (and will visit) have very different practices, we’ve had many questions that can’t be answered with one visit.
In the Episcopal church, the Eucharist is central to the worship in a way that it’s not in many other Protestant denominations. The Sunday before last (6pm service), you preached on the importance of small group relationships, and I was particularly moved by the story you shared of the group who intervened in the lives of their friends who had separated. It is my best hope that I would be that friend, and that I have those friends. After your sermon on the importance of small group relationships, you entreated us to group with some folks nearby, share prayer concerns, and then take communion. We had attended that evening with another family we’re in a small group with, and who are also in a transition period in their lives in the church. Your sermon was very timely, as we’re all sorting out some of the questions of church and community.
I’m writing to ask what is the place and purpose of communion at Life Center? I got the feeling the way communion was done at this particular service was different than “usual” because you said something to that effect, “We’re going to do this a little differently tonight . . . .” But after our sharing and prayer, the taking of communion felt a little like lagniappe, which is a Cajun word that means “a little something extra,” and connotes a positive, but extraneous item a shopkeeper might add to your order. (The 13th donut in a “baker’s dozen” is the closest approximation I’ve found this side of the Mason Dixon). My questions stem from my own curiosity in how other traditions tackle the different parts of worship. What is the “usual” communion practice of the congregation at Life Center? Do you normally take the elements together as a congregation, or as they’re distributed? Is there usually a closing hymn after everyone has taken, or is the dismissal more open, as it was that evening? Do you have what liturgical traditions call “words of institution”?
Thank you for your consideration of my questions.