Communion Service in Our Universalist Church

by Mike Roberts, Church Historian

A recent lesson taught in our Religious Education classes raised the question as to how often and how long ago communion was practiced in our church. Several artifacts left behind by past generations of Universalists offer visual evidence of its existence. The table upon which we celebrate our Candles of Community every Sunday was dedicated to the church by Miss Alice Holobird in memory of her parents. This table was identified in our records for years as a communion table. Also, there exists in the Heritage Room a complete communion set, with cups, that was used in these services in years past.

A perusal of the orders of service from 1947 yields some clues. During that calendar year, there were but two communion services conducted. The first was on Ash Wednesday and was led by the Reverend George Thurburn. It is mentioned in the order of service that he was requested to conduct the service in the Parsifal ritual, one which he originated. In the Wagner opera, Parsifal, a critical scene involves a communion service so one can’t help but envision grand staging and blaring trumpets for which Wagner was noted. However, it was mentioned that music accompaniment would be provided by a quartet. No trumpets are mentioned.

A second communion service was conducted on October 5, 1947, and was part of a Worldwide Communion Day. To shed some light on the Universalist thought about the communion service, here is what was identified as “Our Communion Prayer” printed in the order of Service.

Behold us, Lord, people of every race and clime gathered about thy holy table to share again in the gracious benefits of thy redeeming love. In penitence and faith we await thy pardoning grace. In love and trust we pray for our unity in the fellowship and service of thy dear Name.

Pour out, we beseech thee, O Lord, they Spirit upon they Church, that to all its members may come new visions, new life, new fellowship with Christ, its Living Head. Send us out, if thou wilt, and through us send out many another to work for the extension of thy Kingdom throughout the world. Open our hearts that we many receive thy power; open our eyes that we may see Christ with hands outstretched to bless. Do with us what thou wilt and as thou wilt. So shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of thyself as the waters cover the sea. And to thee be the glory and praise, now and forevermore. Amen.

Image: Our altar was carved as a communion table.

Image source: Russ Araujo.