I invite feedback with your view of the legitimacy or otherwise of the following Communion rubric to be found in the service booklet produced for, and handed out to, anyone attending a Liturgy (of St Basil the Great) as part of a sequence of activities in a public Church building, described as ’within a Western context’ as well as with reference to ‘a model of the Early Church as outlined in Acts 2:42-44’ and aim ‘to create a sense of community and fellowship’:
• MEMBERS OF ANY ORIENTAL ORTHODOX CHURCH ARE WELCOME TO APPROACH FOR PARTAKING OF THE EUCHARIST
• FAMILIES ARE WELCOME TO APPROACH THE EUCHARIST TOGETHER
• PLEASE TAKE A COMMUNION CORPORAL (COMMUNION CLOTH USED TO COVER THE MOUTH) FROM THE STEWARDS
• THOSE NOT BAPTISED ARE WELCOME TO APPROACH FOR A BLESSING (PLEASE APPROACH WITHOUT A COMMUNION CORPORAL)
This rubric is clearly concerned with ‘Oriental Orthodox’ as well as other categories of people. The author is Coptic.
Does this rubric, in its four clauses, make for an aim of ‘sharing and journeying together into a tangible manifestation of God’s Kingdom… and partaking of the Mystery that was instituted as a result of Love of Father and Creator for his Children’?
The context is more than the bare bones of Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great. The Liturgy is part of a relatively brief programme regularly taking place on a Sunday morning in a Church of England building in the UK, presumably with the permission of the relevant Church of England Bishop.
Immediately following the Liturgy food is available to attendees, who can chat informally while stood eating – or disperse. Refreshments give way, for those who want to reform as a group, to a short time of led song, exhortation, encouragement to consult and question-answering by those taking the lead.
A few notes, following, indicate some of my thoughts on the use of this rubric in the context, and given the purposes, described above:
I’m inclined to conclude this rubric is an inadequate, if judiciously worded, attempt to ‘order’ what may be a diverse group of people in terms of Church background. I would like to see it re-written, as it seems to me to cut across its context’s wider and more generous aims.
I can imagine this type of rubric may relate to historical giving or withholding of Communion, by Church leaders concerned with relationships in tension, perhaps on account of contested allegiance(s) and jurisdictions, in which the acceptability of others could not, accordingly, be assured. In other Church practice existing today one encounters such a rubric, explicit or implicit, given to worshippers attending the Church service but ordinarily involved with that of another tradition seen as distinct.
As I see it the rubric unfortunately implies that, despite a stated wish in the same service booklet to be together and have ‘all things in common’ (as is reported of the Early Church), the author means only members of the ‘Oriental Orthodox’ part of the Church are welcome for Communion.
I am not sure the Church is entitled to not welcome a Baptised adult presenting her or himself for Communion. It can be argued, can it not, that if Christ gives, who are we to withhold?
This rubric, in its four clauses, becomes somewhat opaque, but does seem to imply, for instance, that an (Oriental Orthodox) parent is deemed a trustworthy steward of Communion in relation to any child he or she presents with, whereas a non-Oriental-Orthodox adult Christian – presumably even if they were at the time in effect ‘vouched for’ by another (Orthodox) Christian – would not be welcome to present themselves as ‘able’ to receive Communion.
In comparison doesn’t God take enormous risk in Loving humanity?
At the very least I am not sure one part of the Church – call it ‘a’ Church if you feel you want or have to – is justified in implying the withholding of Communion from a Baptised person, for example a communicant-member of another denomination in good standing with another congregation, is an acceptable practice.
I attended the service and programme concerned several times, and in the event found the latterly published dichotomy, of openness and proscribing, in the rubric-in-context sufficiently disturbing that I alerted several of the people more intimately involved with these arrangements of my concern that it would likely as not put enquirers off as attract them further.
I myself have not returned to this Sunday programme since, so I look forward to your view.
Thanks in anticipation!