Common meal at center of Ecumenical Communion Service

Brian Smith | Daily file photo
Chautauquans partake in the Ecumenical Communion service during 2013 season.

The 10:45 a.m. Sunday Service of Worship and Sermon will feature the sacrament of Holy Communion as part of a special worship service in the life of Chautauquans.

This tradition was started by the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell in 2004.

“We started having a Communion service because, for the first time in several centuries, we could have an ecumenical service,” she said in a 2013 interview.

The Rev. Robert Franklin, director of religion, said the communion service “is one of our newer but much cherished traditions.”

“This sacred practice aims to bind us into a community of Christian worshippers fulfilling our Lord’s prayer that we might be one,” he said. “Although our different traditions celebrate the presence of Christ in their own distinctive and beautiful ways, this ritual is our attempt to gather the family of Christians for one common meal at the table where Jesus has broken bread and served wine for over 2,000 years.”

Instead of being separated, many denominations can come together because of agreements that came about through the Churches Uniting in Christ, the successor to Consultation on Church Union. With Campbell’s deep history in ecumenical endeavors, she said in 2013 that it felt natural for her to develop such a service at Chautauqua.

One of the rubrics for the service is that a Lutheran and an Episcopalian must consecrate the elements, along with any other Protestant clergyperson. Roman Catholics are allowed to participate by reading the Gospel lesson. Franklin, ordained in the American Baptist Church, the Rev. Peter W. Marty, Lutheran, and the Rev. James Hubbard, Episcopalian, will consecrate the elements. The Rev. Susan McKee, an Episcopalian, and the Rev. Ed McCarthy, Roman Catholic, will read the Gospel.

Very little happens on the Chautauqua program that is accomplished by one or two people. The Sunday ecumenical communion service is no different. Numerous volunteers bake bread, set the tables, find chalices and patens and help to clean up after the service. Others volunteer to serve the bread and wine at the top of each section of the Amphitheater. Volunteers will work after the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performance Saturday to mark each serving station and to help people get to the correct place easily. Pews must be reserved for the servers and their families if they wish to sit together. Bulletins need to be marked with the name and station of each server. Some need to be done ahead for those who cannot get to the 8:30 a.m. orientation. Others serve as guides to make sure that everyone who wants to receive the elements does so.

For the past several years, Bob Bean, a local wood carver, has been crafting wooden bowls to hold the bread for the service. The matched communion chalices were made in 2005 at the School of Art’s ceramics studio, under the direction of Jeff Greenham. The denominational houses supply other chalices. In the past, the United Methodist House provided Chautauqua co-founder John Heyl Vincent’s own chalice.

Golden silk stoles and matching altar paraments were made by Jared Jacobsen for First Lutheran Church in San Diego.

The grape juice comes from the Grower’s Cooperative in Westfield. Gluten-free bread will be offered in two places.