Laurel Presbyterian Church

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Ancient Prayers With Not-So-Ancient People

One the most profound acts I get to perform as a pastor is taking communion to people in their homes. Most of the time these are homebound seniors, people who do not even step outside their house for days on end and rarely having the company of an another human being in their home. These same people also tend to be the saints of the church who have given countless hours to prayer, work, study, and service in the name of Jesus Christ. Now they sit or lay down at home, watch TV, go to doctor’s appointments, and wait.

Once a month an elder from Laurel and I make the rounds doing home communion. Claudia, my volunteer secretary, puts some communion wafers on the small pottery plate and pours grape juice into a glass bottle with stopper. I take a basket with the plate, bottle, a pottery cup in same style as the plate, a Bible, and a Book of Common Worship which contains the liturgy. When the elder and I arrive we enter the person’s house, sit down, and often just talk about their life for a few minutes. Often the person receiving communion asks how the church is going and we’ll discuss that too. Then we’ll begin the service.

Home communions have most of the elements of Sunday worship. We do prayers, Bible readings, partake of the sacrament. I even do a (short) sermon, sometimes a recap of the previous Sunday. Home communions are different, though, in a couple of ways. First, the sermon almost always turns into a discussion. Since the setting is so intimate and the people receiving communion have so little chance to have conversation in their daily lives, often I will find myself interrupted by a story that pertains to the point I’m trying to make. Most of the stories I hear are full of wisdom and give me insight into the Scriptures, some are random tales that I forget even before we move on to the sacrament itself.

Second, while the liturgy on Sunday mornings has a fair bit of call-and-response where the leader says something and the congregation responds in unison the liturgy during home communion is often a monologue. Since many of the people we bring communion to are hard of sight or hearing it makes it hard for them to participate in a call-and-response style.

There is one exception to this rule. During the liturgy there is a point where we speak the Lord’s Prayer together. And without fail, no matter how talkative the person receiving communion might be, I always hear their voice echoing the prayer that so many have prayed throughout the ages. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

And in that moment the body of Christ comes together to be sustained by… the body of Christ. Those who have been separated from worshipping with the body by illness, disease, or age are brought back through the breaking of the bread and the prayers. In this the church is made whole, when all those who are a part of the body of Christ can be take part in the full worship of the church.

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