Yesterday we celebrated Holy Communion, as both of my churches are official members of the communion-once-a-month tribe. At one congregation we had several visitors, which is quite a feat in a small town that has relatively few newcomers.
We had one couple who was very curious about the service and the United Methodist understanding of communion. I want to honor their privacy, so I won’t give too many details, but they were delightful. After the service they wanted to have a conversation about United Methodist beliefs regarding the sacrament.
I’m not sure exactly where their understanding of communion was formed, but it became clear that it is very important to them that the place they worship not hold an understanding of communion that resembles transubstantiation. In fact, if I understood them correctly, they weren’t too fired up about consubstantiation either.
I pointed them to This Holy Mystery and tried to explain my understanding of the real presence of Jesus in the sacrament, worked through a Wesleyan understanding of the various means of grace, and then applauded their concern for sacramental theology. Over and over, they used the word symbolic. In contrast, my buzzphrase was “Christ is truly and really present, but it is a great mystery metaphysically speaking” (OK, I didn’t use the word metaphysically, but I tried to get at that in less philosophical language).
They seem like great folks, and my primary concern was to make sure I didn’t mislead them in any way concerning the United methodist views of the Eucharist while honoring their search for a Church home. Next time I see them, I’ve got two copies of This Holy Mystery workbook by Gayle Carlton Felton that I’m going to give them. Thank God for good resources!