You will have noticed that we mention communion as something to do in your home if you can, if you are with other believers. We haven't talked a lot about whether we're doing communion virtually. There are some who would say that surely that's an okay thing to do. As a group of elders, we are not completely sure about that. We want to be convinced from Scripture about decisions that we make, and as things stand we feel more comfortable with the idea that communion is to be done by the gathered community - it really means communion and it is about taking part in a supper together. The physical side of it is very important; that's why we have literal bread, literal wine as opposed to sort-of sharing it virtually. So we feel actually, rather than doing communion at this stage - virtually - we would rather look forward to the times when we really will be able to recover that part of our worship properly. When we are gathered together again which is still a very important aspect of what it means to be church. We are doing our best to gather at the moment, but we know it is not quite the ideal; we want to look forward to the ideal. That's how things stand.
Joel and the Elders
“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
As from Summer 2019, we are changing the way that we practice the Lord’s Supper at Emmanuel to include the use of wine (as opposed to a substitute drink). Scripture and the historical practice of the church supports this and we are looking to bring ourselves into better alignment with Jesus’ leadership.
At Emmanuel we always want to be responsive to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Over the years this has meant various changes in the way we conduct the Lord’s Supper in our services. For example, several years ago we were provoked about the frequency with which we were celebrating the Supper - it was once a month or less - and we changed our practice to make the celebration a core part of our weekly gatherings, to the point where it would be unusual for us not to celebrate Communion on any given Sunday.
In a similar way, we have become convinced that Scripture calls for the use of wine in communion. We are not alone in this and the vast majority of Christians throughout the ages have done the same so it is no new discovery. Over the last couple of centuries, temperance movements have responded to abuses of alcohol in society by banning alcohol on their premises and in their services. Often well-intentioned and pastorally caring, the application of these decisions to omitting wine from the Lord’s Supper was presumptuous.
The wine stands for the blood of Christ which was shed for us and the symbolism is not merely or even mainly in its colour. In the Old Testament, we are told: “the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life” (Leviticus 17:14) and it is the overflowing life of Jesus which we are being called to participate in in the Supper. It is supposed to be a celebration of a great gift and not a time of sorrowful introspection - we are dealing with the God who commands His people to celebrate with wine and strong drink in His presence (Deuteronomy 14:26).
The way Jesus told us to go about celebrating is to take bread and wine and we want to obey Him.
For some people, in their present phase of life, it would be unwise or unsafe to take alcoholic drink. We understand this and want to make provision for the whole congregation to participate as much as possible. We have been very concerned to take the appropriate time to assess all of the related practical matters. With that in mind, we will make a non-alcoholic alternative available at every service.