World Communion Sunday
World Communion Sunday offers congregations a distinctive opportunity to experience Holy Communion in the context of the global community of faith. The first Sunday of October is when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. On that day, we recognize that we are part of the whole body of believers. Whether shared in a grand cathedral, a mud hut, outside on a hilltop, in a meetinghouse, or a storefront, Christians celebrate the communion liturgy in as many ways as there are congregations. World Communion Sunday can be both a profound worship experience and a time for learning more about our wider community of faith.
Virtual World Communion Sunday worship service presented by Global Ministries staff and mission co-workers
World Communion Sunday at Inanda Seminary, Durban, South Africa
Communion Bread from Different Countries
As part of the communion liturgy, use multiple loaves baked by members of the congregation using international recipes. Four loaves could represent the four corners of the world; five: the inhabited continents; six: all the continents; seven: the days of creation; ten: the Hebrew Ten Commandments; twelve: the disciples. “Breads around the World,” a resource focusing on bread-baking recipes and worship services for breaking bread from six regions of the world, is available for download.
Children’s Bread Baking
Have children bake the bread for your communion service as part of their church school class. If they bake ethnic bread, the children, wearing costumes from the appropriate countries, may process into the sanctuary with the bread. During a children’s message, focus on the different types of bread as a metaphor for the human family’s diversity.
Mix, knead, and prepare a bread recipe as part of the sermon, using each ingredient to symbolize membership in the body of Christ and what it means for all of us to be ingredients in a global village loaf. Later, bake the loaf and serve it during a time of fellowship.
Using different types of bread and chalices, have worshipers move to different areas in the sanctuary to receive the elements by intinction. This journey to receive communion is symbolic of the journey of faith we all take as we seek to share the bread of life with others. As worshipers move, have the choir or soloists offer international music selections.
If your church uses a video or slide projection system, plan to show images of Christians around the world engaged in ministry and worship. This can be done to musical accompaniment during communion or as part of an audio-visual meditation. Using new technologies can bring the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” to life.
Commission a member of the congregation or a person from the community to write a short dramatic scenario to be shared in worship. Have the playwright meet with the pastor to develop an appropriate theme to complement the sermon. Or, check an Internet search engine for Christian drama resources that can be used with permission.
Translate the words “bread,” “cup,” “peace,” “community,” and other theological phrases into other languages. Create responsive litanies using these words. Have a litany read by persons scattered around the sanctuary to remind worshipers that the global body of Christ surrounds them. Some resources to explore:
Gifts of Many Cultures by Maren Tirabassi and Kathy Wonson Eddy
Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community by Tirabassi & Eddy
Bread for the Journey by Ruth C. Duck
Feasting with God by Holly W. Whitcomb
Harvest for the World by Geoffrey Duncan
Hymns from a Variety of Cultures
Find hymns from around the world easily in both the Chalice Hymnal and the New Century Hymnal. Hymns are arranged alphabetically by title, country, and language. This listing of international hymns can be reproduced as a hymnal insert.
Prayers from Different Cultures
Prayers from different cultures can be shared in the liturgy by worshipers or have liturgists read them in the original language with a translator sharing them in English. Compiled by Karen Farthing of Eden Seminary, the International Resources for Worship Bibliography includes several resources of prayers and liturgical materials from around the world that are currently in print and that note the country of origin of its prayers.
Mission Story Sermon
Use the monthly mission stories, weekly prayers, missionary letters about communion, and other resources on the Global Ministries website as a source for stories about the church’s participation in the world’s needs. After each story is highlighted in the sermon, a prayer could be offered for that particular work and witness.
Use World Communion Sunday as an opportunity for churches in your community to exchange preachers. Learning more about each other’s congregations, even though only across town, helps give perspective to global partnerships. Have each congregation bake a loaf of bread for their neighboring church.
Invite a Guest Speaker
Have your preaching moment center on the personal reflections of someone in your community who is from a different cultural background. Or, perhaps have three members of your congregation who have different ethnic backgrounds offer reflections on their cultural and religious heritage.
Make the service ecumenical by inviting other churches to join you in a special service. Work together beforehand to create a “blended” liturgy from the various traditions. Try to incorporate elements from each communion liturgy into your worship. In addition to the lectionary readings, you may choose to focus on these passages: Romans 12:3-21 and 1 Corinthians 12: 12-26.
Plan an educational event for the congregation to learn more about our global mission partners. Design and construct colorful banners for hanging in the sanctuary using ethnic cloths and symbols of communion. The banners could be brought into the worship space during the opening hymn, dedicated with a prayer, and even become a focal point for a communion meditation.
Agape Love Feast
Using elements of 1 Corinthians as background for the earliest Christian community’s communal supper, incorporate the communion liturgy into an Agape Feast. Process to the fellowship hall at the end of worship to enjoy a potluck meal, just as the early Christians did. At an appropriate time, break the bread and pass the cup in a joyous celebration.
Hold a Mission Fair
Turn the fellowship hall into a mission fair with booths and information showing global partnerships and mission efforts throughout the world. Invite everyone to an ethnic meal and take up an offering for a specific mission project.
Develop a partnership with a congregation in a different country. Share information, traditions, and mission priorities with your new partner. On World Communion Sunday, use the liturgy of your partner church as you hold each other in prayer and remember the global fellowship of faith.