October 2017: Congo Communion
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Luke 22:19-20
Churches of the Community of Disciples of Christ in the Congo (CDCC) share in communion on the first day of every week. For Congolese Disciples, the fellowship and breaking of bread has cultural and spiritual significance. It is foremost an expression of unity in the faith, recalling a shared experience of baptism. Communion also complements the cultural practice of sharing a meal in community, where each person is offered a fair portion.
In some places, communion does not involve wine or grape juice because they are not always available and are difficult to store in the heat. A soft drink called Vitalo is commonly used as the emblem for Christ’s blood because of its red color. Vitalo is not always available in remote areas, so the local churches there must improvise and sometimes crush spinach seeds and mix them into water to turn it red. Bread is used as the emblem for Christ’s body, but also biscuits or sugar cookies are a substitute when bread is unavailable.
CDCC churches celebrate communion with solemn reverence. The church doors are closed and candles are lit. Instruments and drums are silent during communion. The only sounds are raised voices singing familiar communion hymns.
World Communion Sunday is an acknowledgement that the whole of Christianity practices communion in some form or fashion. While the emblems, tables, and certain customs may vary around the world, we all come to share in this meal as an important tenet of our faith. World Communion Sunday is an opportunity and a reminder to bring what we love about sharing the Lord’s meal to the world; unity, presence, peace, and community. May we seek to bring these elements to the world in remembrance of Jesus.
Paul Turner serves with the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo as a project consultant. His appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.