Constitution of the elements

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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
This is easy to say on an internet forum friend. I don't disagree, but we also need to live in the real world and attack the bigger issues first. In both the PCA and the OPC, there are several issues of orthodoxy that need to be worked out that I believe take precedent. For the PCA, the sodomy issue. For the OPC, the issue of feminism and observing the sabbath (perhaps the PCA has this one too).

In both the OPC and PCA, Sessions of individual congregations determine how to serve the Supper. Sitting around the table is not contrary to the worship standards of either the OPC nor PCA. It is nothing that needs to be changed denominationally or before the Presbytery. It is something your local Session needs to reform. So again, determine what Christ requires for you, be not concerned with the whole of the OPC or PCA, what about your congregation? What does the Lord command? Now, if you come to the belief that God requires sitting around a table (same with wine), then go prayerfully, humbly, and submissively to your Session and ask them to study the issue for the health of the body. That's what I mean when I say, "Orthodoxy comes before orthopraxy".
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
It's very heartening to see our Korean family follow the dictates of Christ despite any etymological or other difficulties in Scripture conveyance.
Welll… maybe in using bread, at least. (Although one time in my experience here the little bready cube turned out to be cake.) And you’ll not likely find wine used anywhere.

But don’t get me started on the errors of the Korean church! Things are not in a good way here, despite the happy Western talk about South Korea being the second-largest exporter of missionaries.
The "wafer" thing, though - I may need some clarity on what is intended there. Or, maybe I am indeed misunderstanding "bread". If I may, are you meaning this communion element ought to be more like a loaf (a thing to then be "broken") ?
Bread should have some weight to it. It’s meant to be a filling, strengthening food.
I mentioned that our church offers a wine/wafer combo set (though not a personal preference). I've read where there are Waffle Houses in Korea (not American affiliated). And I'd agree I'd stare if my breakfast of eggs and grits also included grape jelly and a round communion wafer instead of white bread toast (a thing that looks more like bread or the "bread" of Scripture). If that's more the meaning.
Waffle House… Is that a restaurant? And where I come from, “grits” refers to a political party.

But we are in agreement, I think. Real bread is not difficult to distinguish from whatever those wafers are.
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
In both the OPC and PCA, Sessions of individual congregations determine how to serve the Supper. Sitting around the table is not contrary to the worship standards of either the OPC nor PCA. It is nothing that needs to be changed denominationally or before the Presbytery. It is something your local Session needs to reform. So again, determine what Christ requires for you, be not concerned with the whole of the OPC or PCA, what about your congregation? What does the Lord command? Now, if you come to the belief that God requires sitting around a table (same with wine), then go prayerfully, humbly, and submissively to your Session and ask them to study the issue for the health of the body. That's what I mean when I say, "Orthodoxy comes before orthopraxy".
I was responding to you with my own local church in mind. And, with the example I mentioned in the edit, I have specifically met with the elders on. I am doing what I can in my own church. Again, I believe the issue mentioned in the edit is a more important issue at the moment. Someday, hopefully, I can bring up some of the other issues. At the moment though, there is a great diversity of beliefs within my own church when it comes to what the RPW is, what observing the Sabbath means, and how the supper should be conducted. I am doing what I can, but it is unlikely to change overnight.
 

reformed grit

Puritan Board Freshman
... And in the freedom of Christ, if someone lowers down a blanket of unclean varmints, just maybe check His credentials.
 

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
Does anyone's church actually do this though I wonder?
Yes, in the FP Church of Scotland this is always how the Lord's Supper is practiced. In some of the larger congregations the table is served twice and half come to the first table and half to the second, which, while sub-optimal, is a constraint of the ratio of building size to number of communicants, but is far preferable to serving communicants in their pews.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Sophomore
So…we cap membership based on how many table seats we can fit into a building? Is your entire service taking place at these tables?

I’m trying to picture 500+ people sitting at “one table” for communion every Lord’s Day.
 

Scottish Presbyterian

Puritan Board Freshman
So…we cap membership based on how many table seats we can fit into a building? Is your entire service taking place at these tables?

I’m trying to picture 500+ people sitting at “one table” for communion every Lord’s Day.
No, very obviously not. If membership increases to the size that they don't all fit round the table, then it's possible to increase the number of tables or the proportion of the church building used for the tables. If that becomes impossible or impractical then it's possible to serve the table more than once for a percentage of the communicants at each sitting - not ideal but better than serving in their pews.

But if your congregation is so large that you have 500+ communicants (what's the approximate total attendance) then likely they are not all very local and it's time you planted a new congregation.
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
So…we cap membership based on how many table seats we can fit into a building? Is your entire service taking place at these tables?

I’m trying to picture 500+ people sitting at “one table” for communion every Lord’s Day.

You bring up another common problem in modern church and that is the elevating of the sacrament so that it is celebrated weekly. But we can leave that aside and not derail the thread further.

As for 500+ members, I as well would encourage multiple church plants.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
The Westminster Directory of Publick Worship says this:

After this exhortation, warning, and invitation, the table being before decently covered, and so conveniently placed, that the communicants may orderly sit about it, or at it, the minister is to begin the action with sanctifying and blessing the elements of bread and wine set before him, (the bread in comely and convenient vessels, so prepared, that, being broken by him, and given, it may be distributed amongst the communicants; the wine also in large cups,) having first, in a few words, shewed that those elements, otherwise common, are now set apart and sanctified to this holy use, by the word of institution and prayer.

So it clearly envisages a covered table at the center of the celebration (I'm not sure why an uncovered table is indecent?), with the participants "about it or at it". I'm not sure that demands them actually seated at the table, though that would be one way of doing it. You also have to remember that many of the Scots would have been practicing annual communion services/seasons in which setting up a massive series of tables outside could have been possible (though even in June risky, weather-wise). It's trickier to do this if you are following the other dictum of the directory which is that communion should be "frequent".

This discussion raises the broader question of exactly how closely our Lord's Supper practice has to resemble the Last Supper. If you are going to insist on a table because there was one at the Last Supper, then you should also probably have it uncovered and recline rather than sitting. And you should definitely have unleavened bread (see 1 Cor. 5:7-8). I love the symbolism of sitting around a table partaking together (though individual cups are potentially much better than a common cup for actually partaking together!), but I'd be hard pressed to require it of a church; that wasn't part of Paul's instruction to the church in Corinth
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Some Dutch churches would have many sitting downs around the table consecutively
I visited a Dutch Reformed church with several hundred communicants once. They had several ministers, each at their own table, with groups coming up as motioned by the Deacons, to partake. It seemed they were trying to have communion around a table but in a way to accommodate many people.

Practically, larger congregation sizes was a key factor in many churches moving to administer in the pews instead of seated around a table.
 

iainduguid

Puritan Board Junior
In the Lord’s Supper, we should be using bread, defined as baked dough made of some kind of grain flour, and wine, defined as an alcoholic beverage made of grapes. I cannot see any room for any substitutions in the pages of Scripture. On the mission field, I grant, this can be a challenge, but I imagine that bread is easier to figure out than grape wine, requiring only an oven and grain. And if you don’t have grapes, you should get to planting. Grapes ferment easily, so that detail doesn’t need worrying about. If your climate is unsuited to any type of grape, it is inhospitable indeed, but you should look into having wine shipped in.
Tom, are you being serious that missionaries should set aside their ministry in order to become viticulturists? Surely their calling is soul culture, not soil culture? I'd love to see that support letter home!

When I was a missionary in West Africa, we used Grape Tang. It's not ideal but it was widely available. Of course, one of the wider challenges of mission work is translating Biblical idioms and images into ideas comprehensible by the local culture. One of the problems of using grape wine (which I'm sure we could have sourced and would have been better - I was working under American Baptist missionaries, who didn't want the alcoholic element) is the fact that it is an alien element in that culture, whereas in its original context wine was the everyday beverage in a context where you wouldn't want to drink the water. Palm wine would have been local, but the method of production is important to the Biblical symbolism, since grapes are crushed and palm wine is tapped. So either way, there is some translation work necessary by the missionary. Just another reason to pray for our missionary brothers and sisters, who face many challenges in communicating the gospel cross-culturally.
 

Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
Tom, are you being serious that missionaries should set aside their ministry in order to become viticulturists? Surely their calling is soul culture, not soil culture? I'd love to see that support letter home!
I did not say anything about “setting aside ministry.” I said I don’t see room in Scripture for substitutions for the elements of bread and wine. To make bread, you need grain and an oven. To make wine, you need grapes. If you don’t have grapes available, wine can be bought. (I said all this above.)

If you are arguing that cultural unfamiliarity of grape wine is a deciding factor in making substitutions, I think that is an argument that deserves to be rather more fully fleshed out.

Why did Christ institute wine? Was it meant as a vivifying beverage for that time and culture, to be adapted as necessary as the gospel spread? If yes, then, in northern Europe, ale would be a better fit than wine. Kvass in Russia, maybe. And, perhaps, in Vietnam, a common bowl of rice, the staple grain, would be more fitting than a loaf of bread. The minister might dole out spoonfuls of sticky rice.

I’m quite prepared to hear the arguments in favour of cultural accommodations to the Lord’s Supper.

But one thing that strikes me as I write this is how very disunifying it all seems. Grape juice, banana wine, beer, crackers, brioche and pancakes… It’s bound to to get a little messy.
 
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