How to prepare for Holy Communion

Preparing to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion is not difficult, but some forethought will enhance the experience.  When Holy Communion is administered in a church someone is designated to take care of these things.  Such people are often called Communion Stewards or are members of an Altar Guild.  You will need to be your own Communion Steward and your own Altar Guild.  All of this is relatively easy, but a little preparation goes a long way. 

  • Your Worship Space.  You should try to arrange yourself in front of your computer in a comfortable way.  There should be sufficient space on your keyboard shelf or on a side table to place the elements (the bread and wine).  The presence of a cross, even a small one, where it is visible may add to your worship experience.  A quiet place, without television, radio, or MP3 player sounds, or other noisy distractions is ideal, although this may not always be possible.  The use of earphones plugged into your computer may help overcome uncontrollable ambient noise.
  • The Elements.   The "elements" consist of the bread and wine (or grape juice) used in the service of Holy Communion.

    • The bread.  You will need a small piece of bread.  Traditionally the bread is "unleavened" (a brittle flat bread made without yeast and eaten at Passover [syn: matzo]) because the last supper eaten by Jesus and his disciples was a Jewish Passover meal.  In the 21st Century in the United Methodist Church, any kind of bread you may have available may be used. The bread you place before you should be large enough to symbolically break it when you are asked to do so.  The bread and wine should be placed in a convenient location before you during the Communion service.
    • The wine.  Either fermented grape juice (wine) or unfermented grape juice may be used.  A simple, unfortified red wine, often cut with water, is the traditional sacramental wine of the Christian Church.  Methodists in the United States commissioned the development of an unfermented grape juice in the 1890s to be consistent with the strong temperance movement of the times.  Certainly if you have physical, mental, or moral issues with the use of alcohol, use grape juice.  Under some circumstances neither wine nor grape juice may be available to you.  Under such conditions some other common beverage, such as water, may be used solely as a symbol of the wine.  Wine or grape juice are preferred because they follow more closely the biblical stories of the institution of Holy Communion by Jesus.  The wine (or grape juice) may be poured from a decanter (or bottle) into a small glass or goblet (chalice) when you are asked to do so.
  • What do we need to believe?   The short answer is "nothing" (or perhaps "everything").  That answer is too simple-minded and controversial to be useful, however.  There are two elements of John Wesley's thinking about Holy Communion that have been inherited by modern Methodism:  Communion is both a confirming and a converting rite; and God works objectively in the individual in the process of taking Holy Communion.  The objective work of God in the individual through Holy Communion (God can, of course, work on the individual anytime, as well) is what we often call the "Real Presence" of Christ in the sacrament.

    From the ideas recounted above Methodists have concluded that Holy Communion is open to anyone and everyone regardless of age or level of spiritual formation or denomination.  Some denominations require that a person be baptized before taking Communion.  In the United Methodist tradition, however, a communicant does not need to be baptized.  Baptism, along with Holy Communion, are the two primary sacraments of the Christian Church, although some denominations recognize additional sacraments.  A sacrament is usually defined as an "outward sign of an inward and spiritual grace."  We understand that if a communicant truly confronts God, and is confronted by God in the sacrament of Holy Communion, baptism, which is the sign of entry into the universal Christian Church, will ultimately be the result.  God wants to communicate with everyone and one of His chosen vehicles for that communication is the rite of Holy Communion.