Chaplain Lundblad to lead ecumenical communion

Chautauquans receive communion during the 2013 ecumenical service in the Amphitheater. (Brian Smith | File Photo)

Chautauquans receive communion during the 2013 ecumenical service in the Amphitheater. (Brian Smith | File Photo)

Sundays at Chautauqua Institution are rich and full, to quote the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell.

Campbell added to that richness in 2004 with the first ecumenical communion service at the 10:45 a.m. service of worship and sermon.

This Sunday, for the 12th year, the Lord’s Supper will be served during worship. Additionally, Sunday’s worship is also the Baccalaureate Service for the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Class of 2015.

The chaplain for Week Six is a Chautauqua favorite, the Rev. Barbara Lundblad. She has been a chaplain-in-residence at Chautauqua every two years since 2005.

“She is passionate about preaching as an embodied art form that pierces the heart as it presents truth to the mind and penetrates the soul,” said Maureen Rovegno, associate director of religion. “Barbara’s preaching leaves us changed.”

Lundblad will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning service of worship and sermon in the Amphitheater and will share her faith journey at the 5 p.m. Vespers in the Hall of Philosophy. She will preach Monday through Friday at the 9:15 a.m. morning worship service in the Amp.

“God calls you and me to tell the truth about whatever diminishes life and wholeness for any person,” Lundblad said during her July 12 sermon on Day1 radio. “We don’t speak up because we want to be martyrs. We speak and act because we believe God’s kingdom has come near, and that makes all the difference.”

There must be a Lutheran pastor at an ecumenical service, so Lundblad will preside at the table. Aug. 1, 2004, was the first Sunday in the history of the Institution that Sunday worshippers could take Communion together.

“This ritual, at the heart of Christian faith, has united believers for two thousand years with their Savior, their Creator and with each other,” wrote former Daily worship columnist Joan Lipscomb Solomon at the time. “This simple ceremony has taken place at Chautauqua’s denominational houses since the beginning.”

But who can take Communion and under what circumstances has also divided Christians. It was not until 2004 with the adoption of the World Council of Churches document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry and agreements between many Protestant denominations, that ecumenical Communion services like the one at Chautauqua could be celebrated.

“We do it now because we can,” Campbell said.

Director of Religion Robert Franklin said that, perhaps more than anything else at Chautauqua, “in a strange and beautiful way,” the ecumenical service illustrates Jesus’ pray of unity (as referenced in John 17) and the “genius” of the United States.

“God reminds us that we have been called one body of Christ,” Franklin said. We need rituals and symbols that remind us of this wonderful and elusive reality. And America may be unique among nations because it aspires to build one nation from many different nations, ethnic and religious groups. So, on ecumenical Communion Sunday, we bear witness to something that has not been achieved but inspires us to strive, to work for and to celebrate our destination.”

The Rev. Virginia Carr, vicar of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd at Chautauqua and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Westfield, will serve as priest for the service, as an Episcopalian minister must preside. A Roman Catholic may read the Gospel. The Rev. Ray Defendorf, a permanent deacon in the Rochester Diocese and national director of Educational Opportunities Catholic Travel Ministries, will fill that role. Franklin will also preside.

There will be more than 60 clergy and assistants who will take the communion elements to stations around the Amphitheater. Gluten-free bread will be available. The grape juice used in the service is from the Grower’s Co-Op of Chautauqua County.

Many of the chalices were made by artists at Chautauqua and the patens were made from trees that grew on the grounds. In the past, the Methodist House has donated Bishop John Heyl Vincent’s chalice, as part of the ceremony.

Lundblad is the Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching Emerita at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. An ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, she has held many leadership position in the church and retired from Union in 2014. Recently, she was visiting professor of homiletics at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Lundblad earned her M.Div. from Yale Divinity School and served for 16 years as pastor of Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church in Washington Heights, New York City. While teaching at Union she also served as pastoral associate at Advent Lutheran Church in Manhattan.

Lundblad has preached in hundreds of congregations and universities; has lectured extensively in the U.S. and internationally; and has given the Beecher Lectures at Yale Divinity School and other major conferences.

She has written for numerous publications and is the author of Transforming the Stone: Preaching through Resistance to Change and Marking Time: Preaching Biblical Stories in Present Tense.

In 2014 the Academy of Homiletics honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

This article was updated on Aug. 2, 2015, to correct the spelling of “patens.”