From the NCC web site:
World Communion Sunday–celebrated the first Sunday in October–is one of the most venerable of “special Sundays.” The day has taken on new relevancy and depth of meaning in a world where globalization often has undermined peace and justice–and in a time when fear divides the peoples of God’s earth. On this day we celebrate our oneness in Christ, the Prince of Peace, in the midst of the world we are called to serve–a world ever more in need of peacemaking.
World Communion Sunday (originally called World Wide Communion Sunday) originated in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In 1936, for the first time, the first Sunday in October was celebrated in Presbyterian churches in the United States and overseas. From the beginning, it was planned so that other denominations could make use of it and, after a few years, the idea spread beyond the Presbyterian Church. The Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) was first associated with World Wide Communion Sunday in 1940 when the department’s executive secretary, Jesse Bader, led in its extension to a number of churches throughout the world.
Today, efforts to promote World Communion Sunday are carried out by participating denominations, and several produce materials geared toward this observance . . .
Of course, the PCA, as a whole, is not a “participating denomination,” and because World Communion Sunday is promoted by churches which are members of the NCC, many conservatives no doubt distance themselves from it for fear of “guilt by association.” To this I offer the following:
- World Communion began in the Presbyterian Church in 1936. There was no PCA until 1973: World Communion Sunday did not begin as a “PC(USA) thing,” as there was no PC(USA) at the time. It began as simply a “Presbyterian thing” which soon spread to many other denominations.
- Yes, many NCC churches promote World Communion Sunday, and the NCC promotes many causes with which conservatives strongly disagree. The NCC’s position on other issues has nothing to do with whether or not World Communion Sunday is a good idea. Besides, my own denomination (the PCA) is a member of the conservatives’ answer to the NCC, called the NAE, and the leadership of that organization (especially its current president) has made pronouncements with which many in the PCA (myself included) disagree*, so we cannot assume that simply because a church is a member of such an organization, that church is automatically in favor of everything that organization does or says.
- World Communion Sunday is about unity among Christians, which is close to the heart of Jesus (read John 17). We need more reminders of our need to be united to other Christians.
So, if your church celebrates World Communion Sunday, or if it did a long time ago and stopped, or if it never has and you’d like to start, here are some ideas and some helpful links:
- Many, many sites have liturgies for World Communion Sunday. Kir Shalom has long been one of my favorite sites for ideas for liturgies. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship at Calvin College (affiliated with the CRC) has a World Communion Sunday liturgy here.
- A very effective means of communicating the unity of all believers is through using different kinds of bread from around the world for Communion that day. I recommend getting the set of six “Breads Around the World” publications from Global Ministries. You may read about them here.
- You may want to consider having a fellowship meal after the worship service (we do this every week, but if you don’t ususally do this, World Communion Sunday is a perfect day to have one). A fellowship meal creates a great opportunity to invite friends to worship with you on this special day, especially those whose churches do not participate in World Communion Sunday.
*Note: At the time I originally wrote this, the president of the NAE was a man named Ted Haggard. What I had in mind here was Haggard’s uncritical acceptance of the Church Growth Movement. This was written before Haggard’s much-publicized personal problems. I know very little about the current president of the NAE, Leith Anderson.