Joining in Communion at Holy Cross

Of all the anxieties that visitors and newcomers to a church experience, “Can I receive Communion?” is probably right there at the top. There’s a fear that if one joins the congregation in coming forward at Communion time and one shouldn’t . . . an alarm will go off, God will hurl down a lightening bolt, or the priest will publicly humiliate you.

Well, none of those things will happen at Holy Cross! If a visitor comes to receive the Sacrament, she or he will receive it. At the same time, we do follow a simple rule, which is the requirement for receiving Communion in the whole Episcopal Church. That is, you should be baptized. This requirement goes all the way back to the earliest history of Christianity. Originally, Baptism and Eucharist were a single rite when one entered the Church. First you were baptized, then you received Communion for the first time. (You were also confirmed in that single rite, but that’s another story.)

Various branches of Christianity have moved the building blocks of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation around, putting them at different stages of life. But in reforms of the 1970s and ’80s, the Episcopal Church returned to the ancient practice: Baptism is the only prerequisite for receiving Communion. (Reception, however, should never be casual or disrespectful. An examined conscience and a penitent heart are part of the preparation for Communion.)

It is true that some congregations invite everyone, or everyone “seeking God” or “acknowledging holiness” or some such formula, to receive. The impulse behind such invitations is understandable: to be open and inclusive. However, not only is “open Communion” a violation of Episcopal Church law, it also ignores the clear message of the New Testament. This is that the Church is a community of discipleship, with required commitments. Grace is not cheap. The obligations undertaken at Baptism are of a piece with the benefits conferred in Communion. To separate them is to do something that the Jesus of the gospels would not have understood.

If you visit Holy Cross and have not been baptized, we would invite you to come forward to receive a blessing at the time of Communion. Simply indicate your desire for this by crossing your arms over your chest. If you’ve been baptized in another denomination, that is no problem; the Episcopal Church recognizes all baptisms performed in the name of the Trinity. And, finally, we’d be delighted to discuss baptism with you!

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