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“But who do you say that I am?” Matt. 16:15

Invitation to Christ
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David Gambrell
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Who is invited to the Lord’s Table?

Invitation to Christ

cover of Invitation to Christ

When strangers come to the Lord’s Table asking for bread and wine, how will we welcome them — not just to the meal  — but to Jesus Christ? How will we prepare them for baptism or reaffirmation of faith, enabling them to grow as disciples in community?

With Invitation to Christ, explore the relationship between baptism and the Lord’s Supper and consider what Word and Sacrament mean for living as Christ’s disciples in the world.

This is the basic question underlying Invitation to Christ, which emerged from the church’s conversations about whether those who come to the Lord’s Table must be baptized before taking part in communion.  Current PC(USA) polity upholds the relationship between baptism and communion by asserting that the Lord’s Supper is a sacramental meal to be shared by baptized believers.  In recent years, several overtures have come to the General Assembly asking the denomination to change its polity by adopting an “open table” policy, whereby baptism would no longer be normative for participation in the Lord’s Supper.

In 2003 the General Assembly referred the matter to the Office of Theology and Worship, which convened the Sacraments Study Group, a body that studied, prayed and worshiped together over a period of three years.  Invitation to Christ is their response to the church. 

Rather than simply say “yes” or “no” to changes in polity, the Sacraments Study Group called the church to a deepening of sacramental life over the next two to four years. To that end, they recommended five simple practices: 

  1. Set the font in full view of the congregation.
  2. Open the font and fill it with water on every Lord’s Day.
  3. Set cup and plate on the Lord’s Table on every Lord’s Day.
  4. Lead appropriate parts of weekly worship from the font and from the table.
  5. Increase the number of Sundays on which the Lord’s Supper is celebrated.

It is hoped that by entering into these practices and reflecting together on the experience, churches will be renewed and baptismal life and discipleship deepened.

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An update on Invitation to Christ

This has been a remarkable season of sacramental renewal in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). To learn more about the fruits of the church's intentional period of sacramental practice and reflection (2006-2010), the Office of Theology and Worship's response, and the actions of the 219th General Assembly (2010), read this recent article in Call to Worship, "RSVP: An Ongoing Invitation to Baptismal Discipleship."

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Subscribe to Font & Table

Font and Table, an email newsletter devoted to issues of sacramental and liturgical renewal in the PC(USA), is published every two weeks. Theological resources for pastors, elders and other worship leaders will promote deeper, stronger connections between the sacraments and Christian life. The newsletter will also offer liturgical ideas for celebrating Baptism and the Lord's Supper and leading worship from font and table.

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Find liturgical texts and other ideas for worship

Invitation to Christ encourages pastors and others to lead certain parts of the worship service from the baptismal font and the Lord's Table. We share these liturgical texts and ideas to facilitate that practice.


Comments

  • Sarah, this is also a great idea. Thank you. I'll discuss with colleagues in curriculum to see what resources are already there and what we might develop. In the meantime, you might be interested in Elizabeth Caldwell's book Come Unto Me: Rethinking the Sacraments for Children. by David Gambrell on 03/31/2011 at 12:51 p.m.

  • Stuart, I think that's an excellent idea. Thanks! We'll work on it. by David Gambrell on 03/31/2011 at 12:48 p.m.

  • Is there a children's form or some type of educational resource to get children educated and involved in the sacraments as well? by Sarah Bishop on 03/31/2011 at 12:32 p.m.

  • We need a strategy booklet that will help congregations, sessions and worship committees move to a more frequent and celebratory mode of Communon. by Stuart G. Leyden on 03/22/2011 at 10:47 a.m.

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